He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. -Isaiah 53:2-3
This Sunday, April 1st, Christians will celebrate Easter—a celebration of the empty tomb and the fact that Jesus is risen! But celebrating a despised, rejected, lowly man doesn’t lend well to an account worth celebrating. Perhaps sharing a piece of my story may help you see it differently.
On April 1st, 2003, my friends and I were taken via police escort to a holding area in Fort Hood. Inside the converted gym Pizza Hut, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and some local moms shared all their services with us for free. The reason? These companies and families wanted to make sure our last day state-side was memorable. The food was symbolic of home and would give us something to remember as we lived in a foreign land. We were headed to war.
I was assigned to 1BDE, 4ID in Iraq–Saddam’s home town. The journey from Kuwait to Tikrit was difficult. I remember thinking: I wish there was another way. I remember being scared and unsure of what might happen. But I also knew I didn’t have a choice. I had a job to do and people were counting on me.
People say I’m a hero. People I don’t even know say, ‘Thank-you.’ Without knowing any of my stories, they know that I put my life on the line, stepped up to the challenge, and was willing die for something bigger than myself. It’s the reason Time magazine named the American Soldier Person of the Year in 2003.
As I reflect on my own fear, I’m reminded of Jesus’ experience in the hours before the crucifixion. All four gospels recount this period in Jesus’ life making it the most documented time in ancient history. The day prior, Jesus shared a feast with his closest friends. All the food at the table was symbolic for the Jews. In the same way Pizza Hut, Subway, and home-cooking reminded me of my American culture, the unleavened bread and the wine were a reminder of where He came from and the promise ahead.
It was after the last meal when Jesus prayed on the Mount of Olives. Luke recorded that Jesus prayed with such fervor and intensity He actually sweat blood (v 44). The Sanhedrin pressed Jesus for anything they could use to condemn Him: “I charge you under oath by the living God…are you the Son of God?”
Knowing full well what would happen next, Jesus broke His silence and said, “I am”.
Before we can grasp the significance of the resurrection, we must know the person of Jesus. He is someone who took an oath to go to a place He knew would kill Him—a place He certainly could have avoided (John 7:8). But He went anyway. Jesus is a person who could have proclaimed, “It was all a lie!” and kept His life. Instead He chose to practice what he preached. He was a person that never spoke out of turn (Mark 14:61), didn’t fight authority (Luke 22:51) and wasn’t afraid to stick up for those being harshly treated (John 8:7). Jesus was a soldier.
Regardless of how you view Jesus, (Son of God, Messiah, good person, legend), His resolute actions leading to the crucifixion are among the bravest and most noble ever to take place on this earth.
It is the moments in life when you are not certain tomorrow will ever come that your true character will be revealed.
In the final moments of Jesus’ life, I see someone who put His life on the line for the whole world. Yes, Jesus is worth celebrating. But more than that, he’s worth knowing. Do you know him?