Without any forethought or planning, my husband and son found themselves in Barcelona over the Easter weekend of their overseas trip. While exploring on Good Friday, they came across a Catholic Easter parade that was wandering through the streets. The video they sent me showed priests, dressed in their most religious dress, walking ahead of a float on which was a suffering Jesus carrying His cross, and another of Mary craddling her beloved crucified son. Crowds thronged both sides of the road to watch and take in the scene, appearing curious but also somewhat disinterested, like it was a spectacle they had seen many times before.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of the similarity to that of Jesus, 2000 years ago, barely able to make the journey, beaten to the point of strips of skin and flesh torn from His back, fresh blood still oozing from the wounds, the pain excruciating as He put one foot in front of the other. Here, too, many watched on with a mixture of curiosity and disinterest.
The scriptures say, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame” Hebrews 12:2. In this most horrific event, though Jesus was subject to shame, He refused to let shame have its way. To “scorn the shame” was to give shame no power. Though it had the potential to overwhelm to the point of giving in to its humiliation and indignity, Jesus set His mind to seeing it insignificant, giving it little regard. He stripped and denied it of its insulting glory. In doing so, Jesus robbed and refused it, its desired outcome – because He saw future joy. He saw me. The delight of relationship urged him to take shame instead as a robe to be worn gladly and willingly.
To both deny shame and to wear it at the same time, demanded intense focused determination, and excruciating physical and emotional pain. Though He gave shame no power or glory, it fought viciously to retain it!
Jesus had walked many miles throughout the past 33 years of life, some even on that very road upon which He now carried His cross. Most likely, He’d never given thought to the physical steps taken then, the simple act of walking as mechanical and subconscious as breathing. Now both the step and the breath took agonizing effort as He made His way, measured and calculated.
A crude crown of thorns pierced His brow. The jerky non-rhythmic movement of His head up and down at this faltering pace, encouraged the thorns to embed themselves deeper, the pain a constant unwelcome companion as He walked toward His destination – the place of His crucifixion. To stop for a breath brought on angry shouts and the cruel whip upon His already torn flesh.
Before and behind came His accusers – the religious and pharisaical clique having made careful dress to parade and exhibit their righteous prominence among the crowd that day. Approving the scene and establishing once more their authority in cock-like stride, some proudly walked the path to ensure this journey was made complete, while others mixed in amongst the crowd, an uncertain sense of doom encircling their now doubt-filled decision. Had they been persuaded – caught up in that condemning moment – now too late to reconsider their stand?
The constant hum of the crowd was intermingled with gasps and tears. The frequent charge of accusation was at times distinct and at other times a vague and barely discernible recognition of the occasion outside of His personal intense inward focus and struggle. Many were just there for the amusement, a vile entertainment witnessed often along this way. Who was it this time?
To keep progressing forward, and in order to not succumb to defeat, did He center His thoughts on eternity? His eternal past now a mixture of comfort and sorrow as He brought to mind the sweet intimacy and face-to-face communion of Father, Son, and Spirit. Here, there was complete inclusion and Perfect Love, the unity and sameness of purpose, heart, and mind…Did pain continually pluck Him out of His euphoric memories, and thrust Him back to the present? As He continued on to His destination, one foot in front of the other, how often did He aggressively have to determine His thoughts to the eternal future ahead – the cause and purpose of His current circumstances – the return to His Father and the Holy Spirit, and the inclusion of His beloved ones into this intimacy? His donned humanity time and time again, jerking Him back to the present – Son of Man, fully human, cruelly and painfully reminding Him of this point in time, the carrying of a cross, the torment of His soul. To be God gave Him determined purpose, to be Man robbed Him of strength, bringing back with recoiling ferocity, the horror of His present.
He, the Darling of Heaven, the Beloved Son, the Morning Star, the Prince of Life, the Rose of Sharon, endured the shame, becoming a Man of Sorrows. How could this Much Loved One become so acquainted with grief? How could He descend from the heights of love to be despised and rejected, subjected to shame and humiliation? Being God, yet placing Himself at the mercy of wrongly defined identity, He scorned the shame of this paradox. With a stubborn refusal to give attention to the humiliation of being labeled hypocrite, liar, from the Devil, inciting division, blasphemy and treason against His Father, He bore it humbly with righteous contempt.
Shame on you, shame! You tried, you hurled your worst at Him…oh, but you ultimately failed!
Where shame meant to persuade Him to cover Himself to hide the ignominy and disgrace, He was neither given the dignity to cover, nor did He request it. Rather, He ignored the shame of being shamed, and was stripped willingly for the sake of, the joy set before him.
Vehemently accused and ridiculed by those in authority, He was re-dressed in an elegant robe in mocking jurisdiction Luke 23:11. He, the Righteous Judge of All, disowned connection with shame and bore the humiliating robe-ing, their game of indecent and derogatory dress-up, for the joy set before him.
Disregarding shame, He bore the insults, the mocking and the beatings incurred by the soldiers who blindfolded Him, demanding Him to prophesy who it was that struck Him Luke 22:63-65. He knew them by name and by heart. This One who had created them – loved them before time – knew. He both bore and rejected the humiliation and brutality intended because of their ignorance, for the joy set before him.
Instead of choosing to set free God, they choose to release Barabbas, a murderer and insurrectionist Luke 23:18-25. But the Giver of Life, the One who walked among them, healing their sick, teaching and touching them, and feeding their poor, rebuffs shame’s power, denied its intention, and chose instead to yield to the restraints of a prisoner – innocence and Life being sentenced to death, for the joy set before him.
He adorned shame as an esteemed garment being stripped of His clothing a second time, where, by lot at the foot of the cross, its new owners were determined Luke 23:34. The One who wore the lilies of the field, mostly naked now, defiantly rejects the humiliation of their heartless cruelty and mocking fun, for the joy set before him.
Robbing shame of its moment, He bore the sneers of them who ridiculed Him with, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One” Luke 23:35. He, God’s Messiah, the Chosen One unrecognized and belittled, His identity so erroneously disputed and denied, for the joy set before him, stays on the cross to complete its purpose.
Alongside criminals, wrongly charged, He identifies Himself as one of them Luke 23:32-33. He willingly wears the titles ‘accused’ and ‘guilty of death’, prohibiting disgrace the attention it desired, for the joy set before him.
The curse of crucifixion Galatians 3:13 is borne by Him as an award of honour, thereby denouncing shame’s dishonour. His death on a cross known and purposed before time was the bittersweet instrument of procuring humanity’s redemption, for the joy set before him.
Shame was borne, but not allowed its glory. Nor was it allowed its rights. Though He experienced shame’s best, His victory over shame refused it its moment. He turned shame’s humiliation instead, into a thing worthy of esteem and eternal praise, and the approval of His Father, the Spirit, the Heavenly Beings, Humanity, and all of Creation – and He rose again, defeating shame once and for all. What was intended for evil, what was intended to shame, God took and used to accomplish all He had planned – the restoration of humanity with Himself.
What kind of Love would face such horror, to have me as His beloved?
What kind of Love was willing to suffer so?
What kind of Love endured shame’s worst, but not let it have it’s way?
What kind of Love would die for me?
O my soul, remember the cost of love. It was I in His thoughts of eternal future that day. Focusing His attention on me, He put one foot in front of the other in excruciating determination, bearing shame but not allowing it to be victorious, for joy. He declared me worthy of His own personal suffering, and I can only cry out to His urging of, “Let Me Love You, and I will Love You”, with the full-of-wonder and humble response, “Love, Love me”.