Innocence can be shocking.
The preponderance of guilt in the world has conditioned us to expect hidden sin in everyone, to watch our backs in even the most polite company, and to suspect that what is going on is not what is really going on.
Then suddenly innocence appears before us:
- A child with wide eyes and a wider smile, looking at us is if we might be innocent,
- A pure-hearted person who without effort invites our trust,
- A strong man who can weep without condescension for those who are weak,
- A wounded healer whose scars can only be seen in kindness and strength.
The earth has seen such a shocking display of innocence before.
Jesus, the Innocent
Innocence came to the Temple as a 12 year old boy asking questions of the elders and giving answers to their questions. Innocence came to John in the Jordan, demanding to be baptized in repentance for sins he had not committed. John complied only when he understood that it was a baptism to fulfill all righteousness. Innocence was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit of God for more than a month of the most severe testing. Face to face with evil, Innocence spoke His Father’s words and a guilty devil had to slink away, defeated.
Innocence walked the earth in power and gentleness. Children came to Him instinctively, sensing without hesitation the warmth of His presence and the safety of His arms. The guilty shrank from Him, but not far. What remained in them of the Creator’s likeness drew them to proximity to the innocence they had long ago lost. Sinners found Him kind. Hypocrites found Him angry with a whip or with stinging words, but His anger bore no malice toward them—only a commanding desire that the evil in them be stayed.
The brilliant found Innocence to be more so. The impaired somehow shared His strength. The lonely sensed He was a friend and companion. The abandoned felt as if they had been found. The blind could see truth in His voice. The deaf could hear life in His eyes. The sick found the strength to press through the crowd for a simple, healing touch. Soldiers could see the authority of Innocence. Politicians could see that Innocence was not fooled by the show.
Yet innocence could not restrain Judas in his scheme. The Temple guards muscled Him in the Garden and the guilty men who loved Him ran away. Innocence did not soften the bite of the nails in the Roman whips as they tore into the flesh on His back. Nor did it cushion the crush of the thorny crown they jammed onto His Head. The fists of His tormentors broke through His innocence and found their mark time and again. The insults of the crowd fell like cruel stones against His innocent heart as nails pierced hands that had never shed blood and feet that had never strayed.
And, most amazing of all, Innocence died.
It was not the end of the story, for Innocence would live again and Jesus the Christ would share His innocence with us.
Psalm 26:1-8 NIV
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells.
Psalm 19:12-14 NIV
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Hebrews 4:14-16 NKJV
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
John 19:16 NIV
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
(from the Book of Common Prayer)
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Traditional
1. When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died.
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
3. See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.
4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved