When my son was about 6 months old, I was scheduled to take him to get his blood drawn for some tests. The day before, I made a late-afternoon run to Home Depot and caught a sermon from one of my favorite radio pastors about Jesus praying in the garden the night he was to be betrayed.
I sat in the car in the parking lot for ten minutes as the preacher painted a very gentle, very humble, very human picture of Jesus. Knowing what was about to happen to Him, and probably how painful it would be, Jesus begged for a way out of it. We know the words as three times He asked, “If there’s anyway other way, let this cup pass from me.” (Matthew 26: 39-42)
The preacher pointed out (and this I could confirm through other research) that Jesus used the word “Abba”, the familiar form of “Father”. Or, as we use the word today, “Dad”. The preacher elaborated that in the garden, before Jesus was about to die an unjust and gruesome death, He pleaded, “Dad, you have the power to stop this. Please! If there is any other way…”
God’s response? Silence.
And for the first time since the beginning of eternity, Jesus was cut off from God. And I thought about how hard that must have been for both Father and Son.
The next morning, I took my son to the lab for his blood work. For those of you who don’t know him, my son is perpetually happy. More charismatic and outgoing than both his parents.
At the lab, he chatted with the nurse a little. “You are so sweet!” she said to him. Then she looked at me, “oh, this is going to break my heart.”
We sat down, him on my lap, while the nurse prepared the supplies. Following her instructions, I held my arms across his chest, keeping his body still while holding his right arm in place. Another nurse took hold of his left arm. I could see he was confused, and when the rubber band grew uncomfortable on his bicep, he let out a little cry. I tried to comfort him while keeping him still, as I just wanted everyone to get this right the first time so no one had to do it again.
Then the needle.
He was okay for a few seconds as he processed this new feeling. And then, tears. Sobs. And they kept flowing as the nurse (literally) poked around trying to get into a vein. His little body struggled to stop what was hurting him, but he weighed 25 pounds and didn’t stand a chance against me. And in that moment, I had never felt so ashamed of my strength – that it was being used to overpower my child while someone else hurt him, nevermind the reason.
After a few minutes, the nurse gave up as he was tensing his arm too much for her to get the vein. We had to repeat the process with the other arm.
Again, he cried. But he didn’t struggle. This time, as the nurse tried to find the vein, he just turned his head, looked me in the eyes, and cried. One of the nurses saw it and empathized what he was thinking. She said, “Dad, you can stop this. Please!” Nearly word-for-word what I heard from the preacher the day before… and that moment was the hardest I’d ever fought to keep myself from crying.
The nurse found the vein and drew the blood she needed. As soon as the rubber band came off his arm, my son had stopped crying and was pulling himself together. And within a few minutes, the band-aid was on and we were out the door and in the elevator. But as soon as the elevator doors closed, like clockwork and just as involuntary, all the tears I’d been holding back came out.
When I think of Jesus’s crucifixion, I think of that day.
I struggle to imagine how hard it must have been for God to not just breathe on the Earth and wipe out all the bad people – they had their chance to repent, right? Or maybe God could have “lowered the bar” and allowed people into Heaven with some sins. Why did He make the price for “redemption from sin” so high that only He could pay it?
I don’t know why. And I don’t know that “why” matters. What I keep coming back to is that however painful it must have been to allow His son to be scourged nearly-to-death, and then allow a humiliating cross to finish the job, God knew it was worth it. That we, all of us, were worth going through that so we, (again, all of us) with all the shitty things we’ve ever done in life, could still be forgiven and allowed to live in perfection with God.
Could you allow your only son to be tortured to death just so that people who committed crimes against you didn’t have to serve their jail time? I doubt it. I don’t think I could. But God did, and He did it because He loves us – all – just that much.