Summary: Gaining inspiration and courage from the words of Jesus on the cross. In our world of darkness, Jesus calls us to be light-bearers. It is through our trials and disappointments that we are enabled to step in among those who are struggling and hurting.
You are leaving the church building and walking to your car in the parking lot. Adults are visiting and children are laughing and playing as you and your family walk by. Then suddenly you hear shots ring out and you see three, four, and five … maybe six people drop to the ground. And, you hear two more shots and see another person in the distance fall to the ground.
In the aftermath, you realize that two of your daughters were among those who were shot and killed. The last two shots you heard were fired by a security officer and a self-inflicted gunshot by the one who fired all the shots.
If that scenario seems vaguely familiar, it did happen in real life, several years ago in Colorado Springs. Events like that are happening far more often in society, today.
But, I would like to use that background to ask you, if those were your daughters, what would you say? What would be your reaction? Would you be able to forgive? And, yes, I recognize that none of us can truly say what our actions would be because we did not experience what the actual parents in this shooting experienced.
In the real experience, the minister of the church where the shooting occurred invited the parents of the shooter to the church to see where their son died. They drove from Denver where it was later learned that their son had killed two and shot four more teenagers at a Youth Ministry Outreach. The minister showed the parents the spot where their son died and after a period of time to allow them to reflect, the minister invited them into his study to talk about and process the events that had happened.
He then asked if they would like to meet the parents of the family of the two teenage girls who had been kicked. They said yes. And the same invitation was extended the other family members who saw their loved-ones gunned down. The also said yes.
During this meeting with the parents of the teenage girls, the minister said "What happened in that meeting ... was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life." When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They wept, and cried together and then they sat and prayed together.
Tears and pleas for forgiveness came as they met with the other victim’s families. Later, the security guard who shot the troubled young man was invited to join them. When she, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot their son, walked into the room, "the parents embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at her and said, "Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry."
The minister concluded with these words, "We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God, but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem ."
None of us can say with certainty, what we would do under those circumstances. However, we can gain courage in reviewing the actions of Jesus. The conversation and shouts on that dismal Friday morning when Jesus was tried and executed were coarse and bitter:
“What shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?”
And after spitting on him, striking him repeatedly, and mocking him they led him to the cross.
“He saved others but he can’t save himself.”
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God!”
“If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
“Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.”
Caustic words … acidic with sarcasm and hatred. Wasn’t it enough that he was going to be crucified? Nails would pierce his hands and feet. Thorns would be pressed into his brow. His body would be flogged. But, the words … the insults that were hurled … had to hurt and bruise the spirit of Jesus. Self-righteousness poisoned the barbs, sneers and insults.
What would drive human beings to mock a dying man? Where was the respect, the reverence, the dignity of human worth? The words uttered that day were deliberate, intentional ones meant to wound and humiliate. Is there anything more hurtful than words meant to wound?
Words can break our heart. Words that wound can lead to medical complications. Words can bruise our feelings. All of this happened to Jesus.
Listen to Peter’s perspective on how Jesus responded in 1 Peter 2:23, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when He suffered, he made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”