“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV)
Few pieces of art leave me speechless like this illustration by Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet. You can find it in an incredible book called He Was One of Us. On the page are the words: “Mortal anguish he endures. All the mortal anguish of all men and women.” It creates intense feelings of despairing sadness within me. Yet it also makes me appreciate what Easter is all about in more profound ways.
Every year I find this image to be a powerful piece to meditate on around Easter. I too easily skip over the “Jesus descended into hell” part of the Easter story in order to get to the happy part – the resurrection. Not that the resurrection is insignificant, it’s vitally important. But let’s not kid ourselves – it cost Jesus a lot to buy our pardon. Violating an infinitely holy God is not an offense one talks their way out of like a speeding ticket.
Just as God is infinitely holy and perfect, Jesus suffered infinitely for our unholiness and imperfection. He took our sins to hell and left them there for eternity (the time equivalent of infinity). To accomplish this Jesus suffered the most painful breakup of all time. Hell wasn’t just a bad trip or rough day at the office, you know. Jesus, the Bible says, was with God when he spoke the universe into being. He was there when God spoke to Adam, Moses, and David. Jesus and God were more than buddies, they were one being – a form of intimacy we can only begin to comprehend in the notion of marriage. Now, I’ve been rejected before – I didn’t get picked at recess, I didn’t get a job, and I’ve been dumped by a girl. And those things hurt a lot. I’ve never experienced divorce, but I would imagine that pain would be even greater than any of rejections I’ve experienced. But, all of those pale in comparison to what Jesus experienced. He and God were one being – for all eternity past! God was His father, and he was God’s son. And yet God turned His back on him leaving him to experience the soul-ripping rejection of hell. Take all the rejection you’ve experienced in life and multiply it by 100. Now you’re contemplating but a small taste of what Jesus experienced between Good Friday and Easter Morning.
This illustration captures all of that for me in a single image. The breathtaking pain, the darkness, the confusion, the speechlessness, the welling tears, the outstretched arms reaching out to be loved. But the most incomprehensible part is this: He did it so it wouldn’t happen to me. Behind the pain so apparent on the page is a love that I can’t fathom. All that suffering, rejection, and pain was for me. What does He see in me? The mind boggles and the heart breaks. Who could love me more than this?
So, we can rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection this Easter. We most certainly should. But perhaps we would appreciate Easter even more if we also took a moment to comprehend what it cost Him.
Mark can be reached via via email.