On Good Friday night, my wife and I went to see a passion play.
Eventually, I stopped trying to hold back the tears like the macho guy that I’m not much of anymore.
When Jesus fought for the woman who got caught red-handed, cheating on her husband, I cried.
When Jesus cast the devils out of the possessed husband and father and sent him back to his wife and kids in his right mind, I cried.
When the friends who wouldn’t take no for an answer, tore the roof open and lowered their lame friend to Jesus’ feet, I cried.
When Jesus begged and pleaded with the Father to spare Him His impending suffering as the full weight of it came down upon him in the garden of Gethsemane, I cried.
When Jesus was rewarded for not defending Himself to the Sanhedrin by having his back flayed with a whip laced with rock and glass, I cried.
When the Caucasian guy with a southern drawl playing Jesus passed a few feet in front of me, laboring and stumbling beneath the weight of the cross, I cried.
When Jesus finally collapsed and had to be bailed out by Simon of Cyrene for the last leg up Golgatha, I cried.
When the vocalist sang Natalie Grant’s “Clean” as Jesus gave up the Ghost on the cross, I cried.
When the altar appeal was given at the show’s conclusion and the twenty-something girl sitting three feet from me spurned her wheelchair for a friend on each arm, helping her to the altar in halting strides, in hopes of receiving a healing of her own, I cried.
I didn’t cry because the storytelling was so tightly woven, the acting so movingly empathetic, or the media and music so creative.
I cried because of the special meaning that the greatest story ever told has for me personally.
I cried because I’m in that story.
No, I’m not the protagonist who saves the day. I’m not a minor character who is needed to make the plot turn. I’m not an innocent victim needing to be saved.
I’m the villain.
The worst of villains.
The kind whose aim is to harm Him who’s trying to do this world some good.
As the villain, I made things difficult for the protagonist throughout. I tied the good guy down to the scourging post, hurled insults at him, and jammed that crown of thorns as far deeply as it would go.
I didn’t stop my lust for victory until I pinned Jesus to that cross and gleefully watched him bleed out through an open wound in his side.
Finally, it was over. I won.
Until I didn’t.
When the news broke that He rose from the tomb I sealed, I knew He would hunt me down.
And He did.
I also knew He would catch up to me.
I also knew He would repay me for the unspeakable pain I had so unjustly brought upon Him.
Instead, He did something I never saw coming.
As I collapsed at His feet and braced myself against the fatal blow that I knew I had coming, the one I deserved, a strange thing happened.
Instead of feeling blows reign down on top of my head, I felt gentle arms lifting me up.
As I stood and faced Jesus Christ I realized that those open arms were not those of a rival but of a savior.
After all, I’d done to make Him hate me, there He was, still, asking me to let Him love me.
And I finally did.
That’s why I cried.
Because sitting beside my wife in the audience with a clear conscience and a glad heart and an exciting future I couldn’t help but be reminded just how much I deserved none of that.
My tears were not those of regret or condemnation but of gratitude. Like someone who’s been forgiven a debt that they couldn’t pay.
I cried tears of joy that night because when I deserved it the least, Jesus Christ loved me the most.
Romans 5:7–8 says it best:
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NKJV)
Yes, He really does love us that much.
Visit Jathan at JathanMaricelli.com.