Whatever you do, do not look away.
Do not avert your gaze from the horror of the cross, and from the broken, crucified body who hangs from it.
Do not turn your eyes away from this crucified Messiah.
It might feel uncomfortable to look at him, and ponder what he experienced; and it should. The fact that we live in a world in which people can be so viciously tortured and crucified should cause us tremendous discomfort.
It might feel nice to assure ourselves that it’s only for a time, a few hours until his suffering is over, and a few days until he rises again.
But this is not a time for comfort and assurance. This is a time to have the courage not to look away.
So do not look away.
See, reflected in his eyes, the suffering of a world he came to love and save.
See, in his blood-drenched sweat, the anguish of conscious human suffering, the heartbreaking loneliness of Gethsemane, and the wounds of torturer’s whips.
See on his head a crown of thorns digging into his scalp.
See in his hands, his feet, his beaten body the pain of hatred, of injustice, of humiliation, of indignity, of brutality, of unspeakable violence.
Listen to his words that cry out of a place of God-forsaken desperation.
Listen to the gasps in the voice of a thirsty, weary, abused, assaulted man.
Listen to his whispered prayers, for a drink, for forgiveness, for the conscolation of death.
Listen to his last utterances, his acceptance that it is all finished.
Think, for a moment, of how he came to be hanging there — opposed by those with power, betrayed by a follower, abandoned by those who he called his closest friends, taking upon himself the weight of our brokenness, our failures to love, our sin.
Think for a moment, of what he had done to deserve that terrible fate – encouraging people to love and forgive each other, telling stories about a new way of being in this world, using his power to serve those who were hurting, embracing outcasts and marginalized people.
Think for a moment, of why he chose to submit to that terrible punishment rather than retaliate with violence, with vengeance, with anger, with hatred.
Think for a moment, of what kind of a world would do such a thing to a person who was simply trying to live by the commands of God and by the power of love.
Think of what he said – you will see me in the naked, the thirsty, the hungry, the sick, the prisoner, the stranger…perhaps even the crucified.
And, for the love of God, whatever you do, do not look away.
Because if you can keep your eyes on him, keep your eyes open to the presence of such suffering, such pain, such despair, such injustice, such violence in such a world as this – in short, if you can see what hate can do, then you will be ready to see what love can accomplish.
If you look away now, you will not be prepared to see what is about to happen.
So, for the love of God, do not look away.