Elba was talking about forgiveness last night. At least I think she was. God was talking to me about it.
There’s a story Jesus told about a man who was forgiven a ton of money – so much that it would literally take a common laborer in that day about 150,000-200,000 years to earn it. This slave went out and found another slave who owed him today’s equivalent of almost $6000 and had the guy tossed in jail. When the King heard about this cruelty, he had the evil slave arrested, thrown in jail, and tortured until he could come up with the payment. Then Yeshua said a most interesting thing:
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Elba was talking again, going on about how much God loves her and about how we need to forgive others. She asked if anyone hadn’t forgiven someone for something they’d done. I didn’t raise my hand, because in my own self-righteousness I felt like I had.
I closed my eyes and started going down the list of things I blamed this person for, and then I saw him. I knew in an instant why he was there. Someone had done something to me that was horrible. I had fallen in an awful way because of this person, and I carried a horrible distaste for them in my mouth, and in my heart. The guilty party, however, was not there. It was my Lord. He was taking the punishment for the one I blamed.
He was bent over, and out of the darkness came a whip, and the crash as it struck my Lord’s back echoes in my mind to this moment. In the resonance of the crack of the whip, a question came:
“Is that enough?”
I set my chin and shook my head. Something was stolen from me, something I can never get back. This person was responsible for helping to persuade me to give it away. One stripe? Heavens, no.
The whip fell again, and with it came the question. “Is that enough?”
The words didn’t come from my lips, but from deep inside: “No.” I re-read my list of done-me-wrongs and carefully explained all the evil that I saw had been done against me. Two certainly was not enough.
“Is that enough?”
Again and again the whip fell; again and again the question came, and again and again my answer was the same. It was not enough.
My Lord, taking the punishment for someone else’s sins – even those done against me. I watched with a stony heart as the nails sank into my Lord’s feet and hands. For what was done to me, was even this punishment enough? The ice on my heart shook its head. No. It was not enough. The cross was raised, and I saw my Lord on the cross.
“Is that enough?”
“It is finished.” My Lord’s head dropped, and I knew He was dead. Finally, my own need for justice was satisfied. Someone had died. Punishment for what was done against me had been rendered. Justice had been served. And I was ashamed. The last of my pride and hatred poured out. Meanwhile, Elba started praying.
I knew that Jesus didn’t deserve what was done to him… I also knew that what I had done was worse. Far worse. I rewound the scene and stared square in the face my own sin, what I had done. I had done something awful. Horrible. I stared the evil in the face, the evil that I myself had worked, and I detested it. Justice had to be rendered. Justice must be served.
CRASH. The story was beginning again, this time with my Lord taking MY sins – the ones I had done against others, not the ones done against me. The whip fell. The question came. I was merciless. As punishment for the horrible things I’d done, one stroke was nowhere near enough. The stripes fell, over and over again, longer this time. After each stroke fell, the question was asked, “is that enough,” and I answered no. I had torn the heart of a beautiful girl to shreds. My sin, as David said, was ever before me. I began to realize that a whipping, no matter how cruel and awful, would not be enough for me to say that it was enough. Were it me at that post, I would not have been satisfied; the punishment was not enough for the vile things I had done.
I saw him lying there on the wood, and I almost felt the steel spike go through the left hand of my Lord, one blow after another. I winced, but said no. It was not enough. Then another nail went through His right hand, and through the feet. The cross was raised.
“Is that enough,” came the question. My heart was once again hard, oddly enough, in hatred against its own deeds. The Son of God, whipped to a bloody pulp, with nails in his feet and hands, and a crown of thorns on his head, crucified… my heart wasn’t satisfied. I knew I deserved even more than what He had taken already for me. Sadly, I shook my head. It wasn’t enough.
The sky was dark, and the thunder cracked. Lightning flashed in the heavens, and darkness filled the earth. My Messiah had been on that cross so long, it seemed. Elba was still praying, and I was relieved. I fell on my hands and knees, and the scene was still before me: my Lord on a cross.
Again, the thunder cracked, and the lightning flashed. He spoke the words again: “IT IS FINISHED!” and his body slumped over, and his head leaned forward.
Quietly, the voice of God asked the question again. “Is that enough?” On my knees, with my face in my hands, I gave my assent. It was enough. Justice had been served, and the price had been paid.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
And so I pray: Father, I stand in awe of You. How can this be, that Jesus came and literally took my punishment on that cross? What sort of love is this? How… I don’t understand. But I want to love You like that… and love other people like that.
I close with one simple question, the one I’ve asked so many times before, selfishly, and now I can only ask it in open-mouthed gratitude.
Why would Jesus come and die to take the place of one deserving so much punishment, even in his own sight? Why? Why?
I do not understand this kind of love… but I want to.
I want to know this God.
But my Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His seed,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of my Lord will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
Posted by B Sweitz on Saturday, September 20, 2008 – 3:47 PM