The Man Who Died On A Tree, Part I

manwhodiedonatree

Dear Blue,

I’ve been writing this particular letter for almost five months now, trying to find some way to tell you one of the best stories ever told. It isn’t my story, and usually that means that I shouldn’t be the one to tell it. This is an exception, however. This story…it’s in its nature to be told by anyone who’s heard it.

As practicing Christians, your mother and I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, our Emmanuel, and that he came to this Earth to redeem us. We are far from the only ones that believe this. In fact, more people believe this than anything else, and even if they don’t believe in the meaning of his actions, they’ve probably at least heard of the man.

His time on Earth was short, but it’s easily the most talked about, most researched, most controversial time that any human spent on this planet. The two pieces of wood on which he died have become a symbol known all over the world and with all that cultural weight surrounding his final days, the story has taken on many elements of myth and legend, far removed from our own experience of the world. Therefore, as an act of God, it’s very easy to view Jesus’s actions with a reverence and awe.

But what about empathy? What did it feel like to go through what he went through? What were those moments like? Not as God, but as a human being?

We’ll start with dinner. Not just any dinner. The Last Supper. Of course, no one except Jesus knew that it deserved its own name until long after that night, but that’s what it was. The last supper Jesus and his crew would share together. They had been in town for a few days. Jesus was causing quite the stir among the priests and the disciples must have known big things were in motion. It was Passover. Revolution was there, just on the tip of their tongues and right around the corner.

So they gather for a meal, let the warmth fill their bellies, enjoy some laughs, and just as about the evening is to conclude, Jesus quiets them down for an announcement.

“Hey guys, sorry to ruin the mood,” he says somberly. “I’m going to be murdered, and one of you is going to betray me.”

Crickets. Then uproar and disbelief. It won’t end like that. It can’t.  But then Judas leaves to do exactly what Jesus just said he would do, and nobody else says a word. At this point, it must feel like just after the iceberg hit the Titanic. Complete disaster is on its way, but right now, they don’t feel it. They’re with a man who has walked on water and risen a man from the dead. What do they have to fear?

They head to a garden for the night. There, Jesus prays while everyone else falls asleep. He prays so hard his sweat drips down like blood off his face. We don’t everything that he prays, but we do know that he is afraid when he asks God to get him out of this situation if He is willing. But Jesus knows that isn’t possible. As the Son of God, he knows this. As a human being, he wishes he didn’t.

What else did he pray that fateful night? What was going through his head? Probably lots of things. Maybe everything. The past, present and future. All of human history played out before him like a map, and there, on one tiny dot two thousand years and change into the future, he saw you, Blue. He saw you as a baby entering this world. As a boy learning it. As a man getting through it. He saw all your triumphs and all your failures. All your joy and all your sadness. He saw your whole life, and He knew it wouldn’t mean anything if he didn’t give up his first. So he made the choice to die, Blue. For you. Me. Your mom. Everybody.

They come to arrest him in the middle of the night, away from the awe-struck crowds who would roundly protest their actions. One of the disciples, still waking up from his ill-timed nap, flings out a sword and slices off someone’s ear. This is the moment, right here. The Revolution is to begin right here. The high priests have made their move and this is where Jesus and his disciples assert control. They tried to assassinate Jesus, the Messiah! Ha! Not likely!

This is the moment, Blue. Everything, and I mean everything, depends on this. He has the power to blink his eyes and incinerate every single attacker in flames. Or perhaps snap his fingers and wink them out of existence. Maybe turn his body to stone so that they can’t move him. Maybe turn them into stone. He can disappear. He can fly away.

He can do anything. Anything at all. He is the Son of God with an army of angels at his command and every story about deities teaches us one lesson: deities, when pushed, push back HARD.

All eyes are fixed on him in this moment. There isn’t a sound except the gentle rippling of flames off the torches. Jesus quietly walks over to the severed ear, calmly picks it up, and places it on the man’s ear. With one swipe of his hand, it’s restored.

“Do what you must,” he tells his enemies.

Do what you must. Jesus has made his choice. Instead of fighting back, the most powerful being in existence surrenders and walks out of the garden in chains. His disciples, afraid and confused, scatter in every direction. How can this be? How can it end like this?  These are the thoughts that must rifle through their heads. All that talk of a new kingdom, a new way, and here was their leader, being dragged away unceremoniously to face his accusers. They must know it’s over now. They must see how it will end. At least, how they think it will end. No one has any idea, but in those twilight hours, the course of human history has just been altered. We are on our way to salvation as Jesus walks towards his destruction.

More to come, Blue. This story is far from over.

-Dad

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