Sticks & Stones? (Luke 22:63-65)

 The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at him. – Luke 22:63-65 (New Living Translation)

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

This lie has been told to children for many years. (The first printed copy of the nursery rhyme was found in The Christian Recorder in 1862.) I call this a lie because, as we know, words can and often do hurt much worse than a broken bone.

Of course, the intent of the saying was to help children ignore taunts, refrain from physical retaliation, and remain calm. That’s not bad advice by any means, but the fact is that broken bones will heal; hurtful words which are spoken cannot ever be taken back.

Often the words of a stranger leave no lasting impression on us. We know that the stranger doesn’t really know us, and chances are good we won’t see him again. His words can most likely roll off us with no further consequence. We trust in the fact that he doesn’t really know who we are, therefore his words have very little power over us.

In contrast, the words that hurt us most deeply are the words spoken by those closest to us. The ones who know us intimately have the power to cut us to the core. The hurtful words they speak tend to stay with us. We begin to question our very identity because we believe that they know us so well, there must be truth to what they say. We think perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves. We take their words to heart, even if said in the heat of the moment, because we believe they wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true on at least some level.

In this passage, we read that Jesus is being mocked by the soldiers who are guarding him. We may quickly believe that this is like the first case I referred to – simply strangers. These guards don’t have a clue as to who Jesus truly is. They don’t know that he is the Creator and Sustainer of the world. They don’t know that he is the Son of God, sent to earth to die on the cross for their sins. They don’t know that hours from now, Jesus, while hanging on the cross, will ask God to forgive them.

While that is true, there is something more we need to consider: the guards don’t know Jesus, but Jesus knows them; that’s the very nature of God. We can’t gloss over the fact that God created these men. He knew them before time existed. He watched as they grew in the wombs of their mothers, whom Jesus also knew intimately.

These men, though they don’t know Jesus, were known by Jesus, and they are his children. He knows them and loves them more than anyone else on earth. He cares for their well-being. He cares for their eternal destiny. He cares for their families and their friends. These are not mere strangers – they are his children, created in his image.

Imagine being at the lowest point in your life. You’re literally being taken to your execution – for a crime you did not commit – and there, hurling insults and berating you in front of everyone are your children. Not only have they joined the crowd, they are leading the charge. They are actively taunting you, calling you names, and telling everyone that you are delusional. I cannot imagine that level of pain and betrayal.

Certainly the physical pain that Jesus endured on the cross was excruciating. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of capital punishment at the time. But the emotional pain that Jesus experienced – being rejected, mocked, and scorned – by the people he loves, has to be severe. Jesus loved these men and the crowds that they led so much that they were the very reason he was going through all of this in the first place! He could have called down his legion of angels and ended the torture at any time. Yet he didn’t. He stayed. He endured. And for what? For the chance to save his children from their evil and misguided ways.

We have all done things in our lives that we regret. We have all said hurtful words to our loved ones, to our parents, to our spouses. We know the sting those words have. For Jesus, the pain must have been infinitely worse. The people he loved, the people he knew intimately, were treating him like the worst type of criminal. They rejected him in word and deeds. And to this very day, men and women continue to mock and reject Jesus, in spite of his love for them. May it never be said of us that we mocked the very God who came to save us. Jesus’ physical pain has ended, but it seems to me that the pain of knowing that so many reject him would continue to this day.

Transformation

Journey to Mexico's butterfly sanctuaries and stand among hundreds of millions of monarchs as they complete their remarkable migration.

To describe my passion in ministry, I’d have to talk about transformation. In my opinion transformation is the key aspect of any effective ministry. Put simply, when one comes to Christ he or she should then be transformed or changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a more Christ-like person. Paul says this:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. – Romans 12:2 (NLT)

The world encourages us to do certain things, think certain ways, and believe certain viewpoints. But God wants us to set aside the ways of the world and focus on his ways. His ways include caring for the sick, poor and orphans. His ways include serving those who are in need. His ways include sharing the life-giving message of the gospel with others. His ways include prayer and Bible study. His ways include attending and participating in a local church.

Yet these values, “Kingdom Values” if you will, are not what the world teaches us. In order to truly follow Christ, we have to set aside the worldly values and focus on the Kingdom Values.

My passion in ministry, therefore, is to help people align more closely to the values of Jesus. Every time I share a message from God’s Word, I try to bring it to the point of, What am I going to do as a result of hearing this message? How should the truths being learned change me as a follower of Christ? What change do I need to make? If you can’t answer those questions, then I don’t think you have a very good message to share!

After all, we are supposed to become more like Christ. Therefore everything we do should help us along that goal. If we’re not working toward becoming more Christ-like, then we are not fully living the Christian life.

Personally, I feel that I have a long way to go toward living like Christ. There are characteristics of my personality, behaviors and thoughts that keep me from hitting the mark. I have to pray about those things and ask the Holy Spirit to do his work in me. But in the same breath that I’m lamenting my lack of progress, I can look back and see real progress throughout my life. Seeing that progress, however, does not cause me to sit back and feel proud – rather, it encourages me to keep moving forward.

While becoming more like Christ may seem at times like a losing battle, it is helpful to know that my battles in these areas are not conditions for my salvation. My salvation in Christ is secured by his death, burial and resurrection. I am still a sinful person, and the only chance I have is to rely on Jesus’ grace that was given to me through his work on the cross. That same grace is available to all who ask.

So if you’re struggling with transformation, don’t be discouraged. God loves you the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Through prayer, Bible study and perseverance, you can live a life more like Christ. Transformation is never easy, but it is a necessary part of following Jesus.