Yesterday was Easter, and after our family returned from church, I put into gear my “Easter Day Plans.” With only a few members of our family home for this holiday, I planned to sit down as a family and watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. So after our meal was over, and after venturing out on an egg hunt, I grabbed my box of kleenex, and we settled down in our living room to watch the Easter Story.
I had watched this movie when it first came out years ago, and I remember just lingering in my theatre seat with my head in my hands weeping for at least 10 minutes after the credits rolled. The severity of the torture, mockery, and beatings that Jesus endured and that this Hollywood film could portray, was more than I could take in, and the fact that He endured it all for me was overwhelming.
Watching the movie with my kids, I was peppered with questions as the story they had heard in bits and pieces over the years was now played out in a timeline of harrowing events. Between my bawling and nose wiping, I would explain who various characters were and what their roles were in the moments leading up to the crucifixion.
Over and over in scripture, when you read about the life of Jesus, you read about a man who was moved with compassion. He was constantly followed by crowds, and every crowd had needs–lots of them. Every effort He made to withdraw to solitary places to re-fuel, pray, rest, was met with one person, if not 5000+ persons, begging for His help or for a moment of His time.
The introvert in me cringes at the idea of having a super busy day, then finally relaxing with my family only to be barraged by a crowd of people all needing something that only I can provide them. And yet, this is Jesus on a daily basis. Even more striking is that those who insisted on His help, despite their verbal or societal persecution and isolation, always received it. I’m talking about Blind Bartemaeus who shouted and shouted on the side of the road: “Jesus, Son of David, Have mercy on me!” And as the people around him told him to shut up, he cried out all the more. Bartemaeus received his sight back that day. (Mark 10:46-52)
Others would include the Caananite woman who insisted that if Jesus even dropped “crumbs” of His goodness in her direction, it would be enough to heal her daughter who was tormented of an evil spirit…and He did, and the daughter was healed. (Mark 7:24-30)
So, we are watching the final hours of Jesus’ Passion played out on the screen, and true to His character, even completely bludgeoned, dehydrated and weak, Jesus takes time. Dangling by nails on a cross suspended high in the air, a thief on one side of him cries out for mercy. If ever there was a “bad time” to ask for help from someone, this moment would seem to be the epoch. It’s been a long day…the kind of day where death is the welcomed ending in order to end the suffering. He is nailed to a tree for goodness sake!! What can Jesus do for a man like that at a moment like this??
I begin weeping again, as Jesus, full of compassion looks in the direction of the thief and comforts him with the assurance that He heard his cries for mercy, He loves and values the man, he forgives him, and He will personally see to it that when his last breath is taken, he will be joining Jesus in Paradise.
With His last ounces of oxygen, with the final moments of enough energy to speak, Jesus takes time for one more. Confirming again that God places a high value on people, affirming again that those who cry out to Him are heard, and that He answers, Jesus shows us what the Father looks like even while hanging on a cross. It’s some kind of beautiful madness.
Through a faltering voice I tell each of my kids in the living room, “This is the Jesus we have given our lives to. This is the Jesus we are living for. Whatever it may cost us to follow him, He is worth it all.” And I weep again, in awe of the God who has the time to answer my cries for help, and is moved with compassion for everyone He has made.
If ever there was a good time for you to call on Him, it is now. “Jesus, have mercy on me!”