Sunday, March 23, 2008

Seeing Red

It’s been another one of those weeks where something’s been on my mind and I can’t seem to shake it. It started last weekend when we went to see the Passion play at a nearby church. It brought back some of the same unexpected emotions that surfaced when we saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie four or five years ago. I was angry.

Both the play and movie emphasized harsh beating of Jesus and blood flowing with every blow. I once again became enraged at those Roman soldiers. How could they have been so cruel and hurtful? Every time they hit or whipped Jesus, I saw red - literally and figuratively.

My modern sensibilities were offended and it sent me back to the scriptures to read it for myself. What I found was also a little unexpected. Although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

The only thing I could find in any of the four gospels’ depiction of the crucifixion story was that Jesus was flogged. That’s the only word they use. They do mention hitting him in the head with a staff, but there is not one mention of the word blood relative to any of it. There are a lot more details included about the ridiculing and humiliation they inflicted on Jesus than any of the physical wounds he suffered.

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John the word blood is only mentioned about 20 times. Matthew records a conversation between Judas and the chief priests about the blood money paid to betray Jesus. Matthew also records Pilate’s claim, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” Dr. Luke recorded Jesus’ sweat drops of blood. The last mention of blood in the book of John describes it flowing from Jesus when his side was pierced with a spear. All the other times the word blood is spoken in the four gospels, it comes directly from the mouth of Jesus.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about all week. Beating and whipping Jesus until the blood flows. Seeing red. I think God must have known that people like me, living in this day and age of being saturated with gory horror movies and sensationalized news reports, would probably have a tendency to focus on those kinds of things if they had been included in the scriptures and then probably miss the rest of the story.

So, here it is, resurrection day and I don’t want to miss the rest. When Jesus spoke of blood, he wasn’t thinking about his wounds. He was thinking of me. I know there are some things I’ve done in my life that might deserve a beating and many more things that I’m sure could make him angry, still, he didn’t see red when he thought of me. All he could see was how clean and white I could be.

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Mark 14:24, The only mention of the word blood in the book of Mark

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