Many years ago, my then pre-school son and I were watching a news report on efforts to save wild animals traumatized in a coastal oil spill. We watched as volunteers struggled to wash by hand rare birds, otters, and other animals caught and covered in that black, deadly sludge. As the workers scrubbed, they had to contend with the frightened, panicked animals pecking, scratching, and biting their rescuers.
My young son asked, “Why are the animals hurting the people trying to save them? Why won’t they stop fighting them? They are just trying to help!”
I explained that the animals were scared and did not know better. I told him that those people were willing to be hurt to save those animals.
Isaiah sang of a Savior who comes to us as a Suffering Servant: He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man [this long-awaited Savior], must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the leaders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)
In order to heal us, to restore us to wholeness, to save us from sin’s power, Jesus bore a number of afflictions. But first, Jesus comes to us in our sludge.
Like those endangered animals, we are trapped in an oozing, inescapable, sludge. Unlike those creatures, we humans suffer from a disaster of our own sin-filled making. We wonderful human beings, created in God’s image, taint ourselves and this beautiful creation. We make a mess, caught by our selfishness, self-serving actions, and self-interest. We wound ourselves and others.
But on the cross, our Savior suffers, bearing the wounds we inflict in our fearful ignorance.
The cross is the sign that God will not give us up to the muck. God will not stop loving us. God’s love is mediated by the passion, the wounds, the suffering of Jesus Christ.
Christ has the wounds, we have new hope.