I was in my freshman year of college, dreading speech class that day. The class wasn’t boring or useless, because I recognize the value of speaking well, but it was just blah most days. We spoke about widgets (what’s a widget anyway?!), and things that didn’t matter to me at all, so really, it was all just rhetoric.
This day, though, was different.
We all filed in three seconds before it was time to begin, and our professor, who was pretty fantastic, said, “Today is a different day. I’m going to teach you about empathy. Empathizing is one of the most powerful things you can do as a speaker because it allows you to reach your audience where they are. Listen today. I’m going to tell you a story.”
Well, needless to say, I was intrigued. Now we’re talking. Out with the rhetoric and the exercises, in with the passion & drama.
He told us a story that day. One I was sort of shocked to hear in class. He told us the story, actually. And while many of us may know this story like the back of our hands, this story? It’s worth a pause.
I’ve thought about how much it impacted my life, this story. That day caused me to see its power, its beauty, its heartbreak.
You see, there is power in the telling.
I hope you’ll take a quiet minute, whether this story matters to you or not, or whether you’ve heard it a million times. It is a good story, after all.
It’s really the only story there is.
After spending the night in communion with his dearest, the Man was heavy & full of sorrow. His heart broke a little each time he shared news of things to come. His closest would betray him, and deny him, and the burden that lay before Him felt relentless.
He went to the place of Gethsemane, and he asked for watch while He prayed. He fell to the ground once alone and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Do you see him? Can you feel the dirt in your hands, running through your fingers? Can you see his sweat & worry & heartache as he kneels?
He returned to the committed to find them sleeping. He woke them and chastised them, knowing the end was nearing. He went away a second time and He prayed again the same prayer. He came back to find their eyes heavy, and instead of waking them, He went away for a third time. Three times to cry out for a miracle, three times to trust.
He came to find them sleeping where He left them, and as He was speaking to them, the Man knew. It was time.
His friend, Judas, arrived with a large crowd of soldiers armed with clubs & swords. Judas kissed the cheek of the Man, but He knew of the farce. He knew it was a sign. He felt the betrayal all the way to His bones.
“Do what you came for, friend.”
Do you see him? Can you imagine the betrayal He felt? The breaking of His heart? The knowledge that wealth mattered more than His life?
The crowd stepped forward instantly and seized the Man to arrest Him. His friend struck a soldier, and He calmed his dear one with these words, “All who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then will the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”
He reminded the crowd of the same.
And get ready for this…
Then all the disciples, His committed, fled and deserted Him.
Do you see him?
They took Him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law had gathered. His friend, Peter, followed Him at a distance, careful not to be seen. The priest & law makers found it difficult to find any evidence against Him. After much debate, the charge was finally given–the Man was charged with blasphemy of the Scripture. He was charged with blasphemy against His Father.
He was questioned, and amazingly, He remained silent.
But when they asked Him to deny or claim that He was the Christ, the Son of God, His reply was, “yes, it is as you say.” And with His yes came fists and blows and spit to the face. He was beaten and slapped, and He fought back none.
Do you see him? Can you feel his head throbbing, his Faith tested?
And his friend, Peter, denied him three times as He knew he would. He was seen & questioned and rather than remain beside Him, he denied Him. With finality, a rooster crowed as the Man had predicted & betrayal formed a complete circle.
Betrayal enclosed around Judas, the ultimate betrayer, and life became impossible to live.
The Man was then placed before Pilate, a governor of sorts. Pilate questioned him, and questioned him, and he questioned him. But the Man remained silent. He won over the heart of Pilate, but to appease the crowd, His sentence was ultimately given.
Death on a cross.
Now was the time for humiliation, for shame, for blood.
They stripped Him, beat him, and mocked Him. They placed a crown of thorns onto his head and mocked Him, kneeling before Him. After the beating and torture came the long walk to the crucifixion.
Do you see him? The weight of the cross bearing down upon Him?
After they arrived to Golgatha, they nailed Him to the cross, and with criminals flanking Him, He hung to die. The mocking continued and for three hours, He hung there, dying.
At mid afternoon, He groaned, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me??”
Do you see him?
And after crying out again he spoke, “It is finished.”
The earth shook and the temple curtain was torn in two, tombs were opened, and bodies were raised.
His body was wrapped in clean linens and placed in a tomb with a large stone across the entrance. It was guarded day and night so the body wouldn’t be stolen.
And on Sunday, three days after His death, the stone was rolled away to find no body.
On Sunday, He triumphed and the light from heaven shown down on this Earth.
On Sunday, He rose.
No matter your story, friends, this is the only story that matters.
For the broken hearted and the depressed.
For the weary and lonely.
For the addicted and abused, for the rich and the poor.
For the hate-filled, worry-filled, pride-filled earth.
This story is yours. It wasn’t written for you, it wasn’t told for you, but it was lived for you. Most days I can’t give you a scientific answer for why I believe so fiercely what I believe. But I will tell you that this story is at the core.
He bled for you and me and he did it all so we would be set free. To bind up the brokenhearted, to restore peace in us, to fill us so that we might become a shadow of His kind of love.
It’s the story that gets me every. single. time.
And a love like that? It was meant to be shared a million times over.
May you have a happy, peace-filled, conviction-filled Easter as you contemplate His Story. And may we never forget the power in the telling.