The flash of Judas’ eyes. People being healed. John, my beloved disciple, standing next to my mother, Mary. The calming of the storm. The confused look on Mary’s face in the garden. The realization of the truth overwhelming Thomas’s doubt. I saw it all – with my own eyes. You see, I used to be Jesus.
Now before you ring the psychiatric department, let me explain. I was active in a very large church with a vision to present the gospel to our community during the Easter season, so we regularly produced rather elaborate Easter productions. Since I was tall, dark and bearded, with some acting experience, I was chosen to play Jesus.
I realized that this was a great privilege, and threw myself into studying the Gospels and other literature to properly portray Jesus. As an actor, along with just learning lines and blocking, I tried as best I could to “become” Jesus to properly portray him to the audience. Little did I realize then what a lasting influence being Jesus would have on my life.
Of course, there are the many fond memories, since working on a major production brings people very close together. Imagine a room full of fifty adult men all trying to put on Queen-sized, control-top pantyhose for the first-time (my wife’s idea – it was much less messy than leg make-up.) Or the rehearsal where I, as Jesus, was a few seconds late for my resurrection appearance. Our pastor, the narrator, ad-libbed “and as they were gathered together Jesus came and appeared among them saying . . . ‘Sorry I’m late, boys!’” Then there was the rehearsal of the calming of the storm scene when Peter fell out of the boat. And who would have guessed that an off-stage romance would lead to Mary Magdalene marrying Judas!
But this past Good Friday, as a small group of believers gathered to remember our Lord’s passion, a flood of strong, significant memories nearly overwhelmed me. And I realized that I had a unique perspective of the Lord’s Passion Week. These are some of the things I remember from when I was Jesus.
As I broke the bread and passed the cup, I realized that I would never again see these twelve men before I died. They were talking among themselves, some laughing, some quiet, but, oh, how I longed to make eye contact with each one of them as they took the bread and wine. Some did, but others were too busy to notice me. Oh, how that burned in my soul! And those with whom I did make eye contact . . . didn’t seem to understand.
Judas was sitting just to my left. He was talking and enjoying the food like all the others. Until I handed him the bread. He was smiling as I handed it to him, but his smile faded, and as he rose his eyes flashed and his smile had turned to a sneer. The utter contempt that he felt for me at that moment was written clearly on his face. As he ran from the room, I wondered if there was anything else that I could have done for Judas. But it was too late now, there was no turning back. The grand scheme had been set in motion.
During Christ’s crucifixion, the nails were driven not through the palms of His hands, as is typically depicted. Bearing the full weight of His body, the nail would have ripped through the flesh and of his hand and He would have fallen from the cross. Rather, the nails were driven through what we now call the wrist. You can feel the depression in the front and back, just below the heel of your hand. By driving the nails here, the bone and ligaments would be strong enough to hold the weight of the human body indefinitely. This small depression also happens to be where the ulnar nerve leads to the hand. As the nail drove through and destroyed the nerve, the white-hot pain would shoot at least to the elbow, perhaps as far as the shoulder.
As I hung on the cross, even through the pain I saw those who had gathered. So many were jeering and taunting. But I sought out and locked onto the familiar faces, two weeping women to my left. Further back, I spotted John – he was here with me! And he had his arm around my mother, Mary. I could hardly look at her, the horror and agony on her face – I felt such shame. I was bloodied, undressed, helpless. Why did she have to see me like this?
My breathing became more labored as I tired. Each breath I had to push up with my legs to pull the air into my lungs. The mind becomes very active, many thoughts flash by as death approaches. And there was the realization that I was alone, so alone. My Father had abandoned me! The weight, the pain, the shame were mine alone. And my Father had left. Eloi! Eloi! Lama sabacthani! Why? Why have you forsaken me? I need you more than ever now!
Father, look at them – they have no idea what they are doing. Forgive them.
Into Your hands I commit my spirit! The victory is won! And I hung my head in death. The silence pressed upon me. It was as if no one were breathing in this whole great room. I could hear the weeping, the wailing of the women as they took my body down from the cross and carried me to my grave.
Later, I saw Mary walk slowly, hesitantly toward the tomb where they had laid her Lord. She had been crying. I stepped out where she could see me, but she didn’t recognize me. She fell at my feet confused, despondent. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and asked if I knew where they had taken His body. I just smiled. And I felt that wonderful expectancy when a loved one is about to open a special gift that you know they are going to love. That moment of tension, wanting to prolong it just a bit longer in anticipation of knowing the joy that was about to come. I simply said her name, “Mary!” The shock, the surprise as she looked at me again, but this time she saw! She knew me!
Thomas swore he would not believe I was alive again unless he saw me with his own eyes and was able to touch my wounds. So, I came and stood before him and gently held out my hands to him. In an instant, I watched as he recognized me. I saw the confusion followed by the fear. Then he fell on his face before me. I was filled with joy because this was right – this was exactly what Thomas needed.
In the same way, Jesus is watching you. He is studying you, hoping you will notice Him. He wants you to see Him, to respond to Him, to see you understand who He is and adore Him. May you see Jesus today. May your eyes be opened to Him more and more each day and may you bring Him great joy!