He walks the sterilized halls, beeps and silence and white walls. Occasionally he hears groans or calls for help. Out of the room toward the end of the hall he hears vomiting and choking.
It is this room he chooses.
As he walks in, the patient is pale and sweating. A nurse assists with a vomit receptacle as the patient heaves. She is hooked up to monitors and wires and her hair was gone months ago. Her searching eyes are like holes into a portal of pain.
He stands unnoticed until the episode is over. Once the nurse leaves the room, he walks to the patient who sees him for the first time. She is exhausted, her last remainder of energy spent by the nausea. Her dark-rimmed eyes meet his. After meeting her surprised gaze, he leans down and embraces her, reaching behind her bony shoulders. He is warm and soothing and though she has never met him, she knows she is safe.
As he ends the embrace and rises to leave, tears stream down his face. He looks sick himself, grayish and stooped. She feels like she's twenty-one in April.
In the ICU, a young man lays in bed like a shattered mirror. He still has shards of glass in his hair and his eyes are swollen shut. Dried blood hasn't been cleaned from his arms. He cannot see and he is only partially conscious.
That is, until someone touches his hand.
It is a touch unlike he's ever felt. For some reason, it's like his father's hands though his father has been gone for twelve years. It's just that safe and that benevolent. He hears a grunt of pain, and his eyes open, and suddenly his pain is gone. A man staggers out of the room with gray skin and fresh wounds.
On death row, a man awaits his fate. He knows he deserves it. For years he has sat in what he did, and he has done all of the jailhouse stuff to try and make it better. He's prayed and taken meds and broken his knuckles. He feels nothing but dread. He is sorry but he knows what he did to those people is a perfect reflection of who he is. He was just being himself, which happens to be an absolute demon of a soul.
Through the food slot he sees a face. His eyes are bloodshot but kind. He grimaces as he stoops to look into the eyes of the prisoner. The visitor smiles through bloody lips and broken teeth.
The prisoner cannot help but get up. He gets close to the eyes, who seem to have seen inside him. He knows the eyes know everything. Everything. And in that moment, the prisoner begins to sob. Soon hot tears stream down his face as the kind broken face stares back. He cries such that he can no longer see. When he gets control of himself, through blurry eyes he sees his cell door is open. He walks across the hall, looking back and forth for the guards that will certainly put him back in confinement.
Through a barred door the prisoner sees a man being led into the room from which no one returns. He cannot see his face. The man in annihilated it seems, ill and limping and bloodied. Guards flank him and help him forward. Before he rounds the corner, he looks back to the prisoner and nods. Though no words are exchanged, the prisoner somehow knows the broken man has taken his sentence.
We do not see Jesus for who he is. We do not see our wounds on his arms and our guilt on his back. The cross is an idea, not an experience. Jesus is too often a good way of life, or a nice person, or good insurance.
He is none of these.
He takes and he takes and he takes. He absorbs our pain and feels it just as we do. He takes our guilt completely, motivated by perfect love.
Now I am inclined to think my sins are like a drop of water in a bucket. Jesus is broken on the cross because of the cumulative sins of the world, mine being only part of billions. Sure, I'm a sinner in need of grace and so I'm glad Jesus took my debt. What I don't understand is that the sentence due for my sin alone is greater than comprehension. If Jesus died only to atone for my transgressions, it would have been just as horrific. No man except me deserves what it would be like.
It is imperative that we understand what Jesus did on an emotional level. I believe many of us understand what Jesus did intellectually, though the gospel still doesn't fit in our little categories. Many of us too - those of us who have been saved - understand gospel spiritually. We know deep down inside us that it's true and we're glad because it needs to be. Our soul testifies to the truth. But I think we miss the emotion of the gospel.
Yeah yeah. I know we shouldn't trust our emotions. We shouldn't build relationships upon them and we shouldn't let our emotions dictate our lives. But our emotions are only sketchy when they're borne out of a putrid well. When worship stirs our emotions, they are like pure water.
So back to our emotional engagement with the gospel of Christ. I am only talking of real emotion here. I am not talking about making a show by weeping and wailing. I am talking about feeling what Jesus has done for us. I am talking about a present awareness in this moment right now of what it took to pay our penalty. If we are emotionally awake, the gospel should devastate our pride. It should turn our problems into jokes. It should scare our fear.
Eternal perspective in the right now makes for a beautiful life. Jesus took the ugliness and gave us peace and love and security. And a family. So maybe we can, by power of the Spirit, take some of the burden off one another. We cannot carry what Jesus had to carry, but we can lend a hand. Not because we're strong enough, but because Jesus already took what we carry.