Saving Face

In the light of the golden gate that Jesus entered on Palm Sunday we can identify the shadows that are present as well. The beginning of Holy week is a microcosm of the whole lenten journey. It is a bright sadness. The ones who have journeyed through lent in honesty can now see the end of the journey. But the vision we end up seeing might not be what we expected when we set out some 7 weeks ago. Tears tend to clarify the vision. For some reason the destination we are heading towards looks like a cross, a death rather than the jubilant celebration of overcoming sin and darkness. Much like the disciples we might have expected a conquering of the forces that is oppressing us. We thought that clinging to Jesus, following Him as His disciples would eventually lead to the physical enforcement of true justice. That we could skip the cross section of our walk by trying to obey the law.

Head in Hands

To be fair, Jesus entering into Jerusalem is the beginning of the culmination of a very physical enforcement of true justice, but not like we expected. Not like we anticipated it to look. It is physical in a different way.

It is the physicality of it all that presents us with the reality of the depth of our depravity. We thought that He came to throw the Romans out. Instead He is thrown to the ground. We thought that He would ban capital punishment and torture. Instead He is unjustly tried, tortured and killed. We thought that He would bring the biggest army ever seen to enforce justice, instead He walks the way of pain alone. We thought that He would whip evil out of the world. Instead He is whipped. We thought that He would stop the shedding of blood by one final battle, instead His blood colours the ground red. What is going on here?

The physicality of it all becomes a testimony against us. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that my sin and my shortcomings are just thoughts, that they are “spiritual” only. That my sin is somehow separated from any physical reality. Jesus suffering and pain forces me to face myself and the reality of my sin. I am part of the mob shouting to have Him killed every time I close my heart to the suffering and lonely. The least of these are still dying.

It might begin as a thought but if left to grow, that sinful thought will eventually manifest itself in physical reality. Either by doing what is wrong in the light of truth or by ignoring to do what is right in the light of truth. Christ receives blows from my hand every time I sin. The least of these are still crying.

Jesus road to the cross this week forces us to face the reality about ourselves and if we are being truthful, that reality might not look that great. In our efforts to manage the parts of our lives that we try to hide we forgot that nothing can be hidden from His sight. How is that possible? How can Jesus possibly know our innermost struggles and secrets? How can He know our shame? Because He is the victim of it. He physically carried it. His suffering brings light into the darkness because His body is bruised for our transgressions. Through His body reality is revealed.

When He faces the forces of darkness and sin He is facing the things that I have been trying to hide away, keep under lock and key. The things we have done in trying to avoid shame and saving face.

Jesus taking the humble path as a servant is truly astounding because in doing so He lets us know that He is not after shaming us. He is not after to “get us”. He is not enforcing justice from “above” in a way that we have to be afraid of. No, Jesus comes from below to carry the shame we could not carry. He meets our heart in the secret place when that is what we need. All we have to be is honest so that we may encounter our true self and the reality of our situation.

Instead of trying to save face we have to encounter our true face because when we do we will encounter the Face that saves.