The shot-in-the-arm I was looking for in my dawn, internet surf session was more like a shot in the gut. "Well, that's kind of a downer," I thought. And then it hit me, "What's the cross all about anyway; What's the point in Jesus being betrayed, tortured and dying; Isn't this 'Good Friday' thing a little over-the-top?"
The thing that bothers me most about the cross of Jesus is all the blood. I hate blood. I can't be around it, I don't like talking about it and I certainly don't like seeing my own. I once convinced a professor to turn off an in-class video of a woman giving birth because I had turned white and put my head between my legs--the blood and flowing liquids were just too much for me.
Even though I'm a Christian, I confess that sometimes it's hard for me to understand why Jesus had to shed his blood--and so much of it. Why did he go through the scourging and have his flesh torn from his body? Why did he willingly receive a barbed crown of thorns on his head (Everyone knows head wounds bleed easily)? And why did the Son of God, "God with us," go through a merciless Roman crucifixion? Jesus' blood would have been smeared all over Jerusalem. His divine DNA trail would have been easily followed to the place of his death outside the holy city.
A week ago I was walking to church when I had to step over a large, fresh pool of blood on the sidewalk. I have no idea how it got there, but its owner was long gone and the blood was slowly moving down a slope into the street. Throughout my entire week I had to walk down that same sidewalk. Each day I watched as the red blood made a path, turned brown and stained the concrete. I kept wondering, "What happened to this person last Saturday night?" If Jesus was looking to make a lasting impression with his death, there's no question that he chose the perfect means to his end.
So, like I asked at the beginning, why? In my clean, sterile, controlled little world, the shedding of blood interrupts everything. Suddenly I'm uncomfortable and can't keep from asking "why?" Inherent in my question is a desperate plea for sanity, for justice, for things to be cleaned up. Part of me simply hates the sight of blood, but a deeper part of me hates why it was violently forced from someone's body. To understand the "why" behind violence, we must learn to see it in ourselves.
It's too easy to remove myself from headlines about a violent "Ivory Coast Civil War" or the deaths of "800 Egyptian protestors." Most days it's hard to see how such tragic events relate to me. It's easier for me to scoff at "barbaric" acts of violence and separate myself from "those monsters." But when I face up to the innocent blood I shed daily, my perspective changes.
I am in traffic, my blood begins pumping and I fire a murderous gesture or comment at anyone who dares to interfere. I am at work, and I cut the throat of anyone who stands in my upward path to the top. I am on the bus, the doors fling open and I thrust my shoulder into the people who won't let me get off before they try to get on. The truth is, I do everything I can to protect myself and my world--even if it means using violent force.
Jesus knew we needed to see the physical manifestation of all our violent acts. He knew we needed to see the shed blood in order to understand the severity of our crimes. He understood that not everyone would understand, and some people would reject the cross outright. But if it weren't for the most innocent, beautiful and miraculous of men suffering at the hands of sinners and holy people alike, we might have gone on thinking everything was alright. If it weren't for the bloody crucifixion of Jesus, we might have stayed in our plastic-wrapped worlds, content to ignore our pain and the pain around us. Jesus' spilled blood made quite a mess, but it's the only way we can come clean.