I think it’s called a trigger. That thing that makes you feel all sorts of feelings inside that are so much bigger than the “thing”. The thing that makes you feel things you’ve felt before but don’t fully understand. Or in my case, the thing that makes me nearly suffocate in panic. During Lent I read the stories of Holy Week. Jesus’ religious trial triggered strong emotion.
It was an illegal trial, legitimized by the authority of the High Priest and other religious leaders there. Angry men crowded in, exhaustion and adrenaline fueling the hate and rage. Darkness outside. Flames of fire flicker on house lamps as shadows veiled the faces of violent accusers. No one spoke in turn. Witnesses lied unapologetically but still could not agree, even when coerced by the court. Eventually the violent mob gave up their façade of justice. They settled for being strong enough to beat a blindfolded man.
I tried to let my imagination stand in that room for one minute, but it all started spinning. I felt panicked, scared, abused, powerless. The evil was almost visible, inky black. Furrowed eyebrows, feigned frustration, nonsensical words of unwavering hatred.
I wondered, did Jesus see what I see?
Humans. We aren’t worth saving. We don’t even want to be saved. We use religion as a stamp of approval from God and misuse the authority that it provides. We look for people to hate and then decide to hate them no matter what. We look for people to blame, people to fear, people to punish, people to be angry at. We tell lies to ourselves and others so that we can give each other permission to be violent. Oh Lord Jesus, you should have walked away.
But then I saw something else, did Jesus see?
Sin. Its dark tentacles were never meant to wrap around a human that way. Sin broke man’s ability to reflect all that is incredible about God. It dragged humans so far away from God that man could choose to masquerade as a force of evil. Their accusations fueled by self interest and pride. Their forceful blows expressing mindless rage. Those words and jabs giving the artificial sense of control that sin desires. That sin consuming the souls of the men who thought they were powerful.
Jesus stood trial in an affronting and repulsive orgy of hate and violence and injustice. All presided over by the high priest, a man whose name evoked reverence.
Jesus had already decided to take on unimaginable pain and the cross and sin and death. I wonder if his determination to die was affirmed by that dark trial. I wonder if he saw the cost of sin most clearly in our faces as we crucified him.
The feelings gripping my gut at Jesus’ trial allowed me to experience other feelings that I’ve been struggling to rationalize.
I feel overwhelmed by the red faced rhetoric of politics. The racism and misogyny. Humans stuck in fear and blame and anger. Humans trying to believe lies that will give them permission to hate refugees, immigrants, and muslims. Accusations flying. Hate permeating. A smirking satisfaction in the smiles of those that abuse the powerless. I feel small and scared and incredulous. I wonder if love actually wins when hate fights so dirty.
Sometimes it looks like love is getting beat up and blinded and abused. In reality it is slowly doing its work. Jesus didn’t come to win a country or win a fight. I see Jesus, his eyes set like flint in determination to accomplish victory over sin and death. No need to say more or yell louder.
So I choose to focus on the work of love God has put in front of me, and resist my own pride and anger. Because I follow Jesus. Hate may feel pervasive and powerful in the world, but it can never win.
Love has already won.