That sounds crazy right? And it is. We don't know what He went through, none of us. Least of all me.
But there is something good about the meditation - as long as you don't take it farther than it was intended to go. The larger project was the Stories of Sifted... and the idea was that saints and biblical leaders suffered in such a way as to bring about a redemptive good - either for themselves or for others (or both). The idea was that suffering is something that God holds in His hands and that it isn't capricious.
Jesus took that a step further. And it's an amazing notion. He's not just overseeing suffering in a way that may make sense someday. He embraced it Himself. God took upon Himself lack. He experienced pain. He felt thirst. And while I don't pretend to understand the Cross in the fullness of mystery, I do believe that He walked in our shoes, in some sense, literally.
In that heart, I set about the Stories as a meditation on emotion and nearness, to try to see these great moments of story through their eyes. With actual fear, I set about the story of the Passion... my own words seeking to express the love of God firsthand. So for Good Friday, as I Remember... here is the story of Jesus, sifted.
It was one of those moments that happens, but your mind doesn't accept at first. I felt the sharp pain set in, and I felt the bones of my hand and arm move aside from the metal in excruciating detail.
My back was on fire. I was cold from the loss of blood. I couldn't move or find any position that didn't make things worse. This continued for what seemed an eternity. The other arm was pulled and set. They lifted me up dropping the crossbar into place with a thud. The cold metal ripping through my feet caused a wave of nausea that passed through my entire body.
When it came to pain, the Romans were skilled.
At some point the level of agony started to lack focus, except for an occasional spike from my hands, or feet or back. Worse, the position of the cross left me unable to breathe. I had to pull on the spikes of my hands and push on the spikes of my feet, raising up to take in a mouthful of air, then collapse back down in a whirlwind of unbearable agony. Every time feels like it will be the last. I could feel the world getting smaller. The end was very near.
The pain was surprising in its intensity and complexity. There was no escaping it, only a futile and continuing effort to try to find any sort of relief. But that wasn't the worst part.
The worst part was the real reason I was here. This wasn't just an ill-timed and unjust execution. The worst part was the cup I was about to drink.
From the beginning of time, God takes the sin of humankind and places it in a cup without ending or limit. Within the cup, the offenses rest: the rape of the innocent; the theft of a neighbor; the evil thought that passes in a moment; the selfish day spent wasting time; the murder of a wife; the oppression of an entire people; the unwanted infant discarded and left to die.
And still they come: the covering lie; the adulterous secret; the fraud of a stranger; the evil word spoken to wound; the abuse of a child; the girl selling herself for money; the worship of Moloch demanding children for the fire; the random act of destruction; arson destroying a home.
And even again: the foul taste of cowardice; the torture of a prisoner; the delight of a serial killer anticipating the next victim; the petty comment; the husband left for another; the anger that strikes out at a child; the greedy manipulation of harvest; leaving people to starve; the unending litany of the vile; the queue of the actions of the damned; the seemingly unbroken and unending line of evil thought, evil action, evil consequence...
All put into the cup of God's awareness and judgment. The cloying taste of that draught would choke all of humanity forever. It was a cup filled with the smell of death and fear and lust, the taste of blood and horror and cruelty, with all the vomit-filled evil the world had ever known. It was a cup prepared for me. Struggling to breathe, struggling to live a bit longer, it was the cup of God's judgment. It was the inescapable truth of His holy power and wrath.
I had to drink it.
I had to drink it all.
I had to bear within myself the darkness and rightful punishment for every ill-intended thought or action. I had to feel His pleasure and presence taken from me as the price was paid. The physical agony was nothing compared to the agony of my soul. Standing proxy for the evil of every man was a desolation of heart, and there was no escape from it. I had to drink it all.
When my task was complete and the moment was finally over, it was blessed relief to feel the favor and love of my God again. The weight of the moment passed and with trembling I surrendered to the extremis of physical limits I had carried this day.
It was finished. I was judged. I was beaten and mocked and punished. I suffered the ignominy of the Romans, even bore the anger of God as a substitution for others. I submitted to humiliation and torture and horror and pain beyond the limits of pain. I drank the cup of His wrath. Death came to close my eyes.
I was sifted.
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:9-13).