This year I have been reminded about the significance and weight of Holy Week more by my 4-year-old daughter, Campbell, than anyone else. This week, we have been reading one of the Hallel Psalms and a section of the Passion Narrative to our three daughters as we put them to bed. We are using my Bible for the Psalms, but we have been using the Jesus Storybook Bible to read through the Passion Narrative for the girls. Wednesday night after we finished our reading about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Campbell could NOT get in her bed before she told my wife and me all about the next story in her Bible, Jesus’ crucifixion. Campbell began to walk through each page explaining what was happening, and then we got to page 305–Jesus, beaten, flogged, barely alive and hanging on the cross. Campbell’s voice began to crack and quiver as she told us “Mommy, daddy, I do NOT like to look at this picture. I do NOT like to look at Jesus dead on the cross. It makes me so sad. I just do NOT want to look at him.”
For some of you, it may be like “What’s the big deal?” But for me, at this moment, my 4-year-old daughter was in more duress seeing Jesus portrayed on a cross than I ever have in recent memory. And I went to bed that night dwelling on her words more than any book or sermon I had read or heard in my adult life. Why was I not on the verge of tears at seeing Jesus dead, while she had trouble falling asleep that night because of it? And it struck me–the reason she was deeply troubled while I was desensitized, was because she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus died and that he loved her. Not only does she believe it, but her actions show it. But for me, if I am honest with myself and with others, I struggle not in believing that Jesus lived and died, or that it was for my sins, but that he would be willing to die for me because his love for me is not contingent upon my actions or devotion to him.
And I might be crazy, but I think for most people this is their hang-up with Jesus and with “the faith” in general. They struggle to trust that God is truly good enough, that he would love them in spite of themselves, that he would love them in spite of their sins, in spite of their thoughts, in spite of them not wanting him at all, in spite of ____________.
But friends this is the gospel. Colossians 1:21-22 says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” I love this verse because it drives home the point that in your mind and deeds you were not with God. You were not united with him in a mutual relationship… yet Jesus still died for you. And regardless of what you did, Jesus did enough. Friends, the good news of the gospel is not just that Jesus did enough, but he did something eternal. He did something that no mere mortal could ever do, which makes his sacrifice all the more significant. He did for us what we would never choose on our own.
A good Bible scholar would encourage you to read past verse 22 and on to verse 23. Paul keeps writing in Colossians, “If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” Friends, the only hope we have in this world is in Jesus and is in his gospel, which says he is enough, he did enough, and will always be enough for us. And I would encourage you this week with the thoughts of my 4-year-old daughter: truly accept and believe in who Jesus is, what he came to accomplish, and what that means for you today.