There is a horrific depiction in the movie, The Passion of the Christ, of a trembling Jesus, chained to a whipping post, being scourged to within an inch of His life by taunting, heartless Roman soldiers. But that is not the scene to which I am referring. It was the next scene.
Soon after the limp and torn body of Jesus is dragged away there is a image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, on her hands and knees, cleaning up the mess. There were many scenes in the Passion that gripped my heart. But the picture of Mary, cradling towels soaked in her son’s blood, seared my soul. It triggered a memory I can never erase.
It was July of 1992. Our eight-year-old son was asked to walk with his little league team in our town’s annual Independence Day parade. My wife and daughters were also in the parade, having been invited to ride on our church’s float. Since I was the only family member not important enough to be in the parade I offered to chauffeur my wife and kids to the beginning of the parade route, watch the parade from there, then meet them back at home. The parade ended a block from our house so the plan was for Jan to walk home with the kids once they had all crossed the finish line.
I waved at my wife and kids as they passed by. Once the end of the parade was in sight I went home. While waiting for my family's return I was startled by the sound of someone banging nonstop on our front door. I opened the door to find a frantic, out-of-breath teenage boy who gasped, “Call an ambulance. I hit a kid.”
I ran to the phone in the kitchen, called 911, and said, “Apparently someone’s been hit by a car.” I gave our address then went outside to see what had happened.
Dozens of people had already gathered in the middle of the street. I made my way to the center of the circle to see if I could help. What I saw I will never forget. Even now, decades later, whenever I think about that night, that dreadfully detailed image flashes in my mind. There was my son, sprawled out on the pavement, motionless, his eyes fixed and staring into space, streams of blood down his face. I have never felt a pain like that before. I hope to never feel it again.
I have much less clarity about what happened next. All I know is when we got to the hospital we knew our son was going to survive, but didn’t immediately know the extent of his injuries.
After a long night of x-rays, monitors, and MRIs, I went home the next morning to pick up some things for an extended hospital stay for me, my wife, and our son. As I turned onto our street, the early morning sun brought sobering clarity to what had happened the night before. There on the pavement, just a few yards from our house, was a pool of blood. That mere sight dredged up feelings I was not prepared or willing to feel. I soon found myself in the middle of the road, on my hands and knees, with a bucket and towels, wiping up my son’s blood. For a brief moment, I felt Mary's pain. And God's.
In my years of helping others through painful life experiences I have concluded that there is no pain worse than that of losing a child. Our son recovered fully from his injuries. I am grateful that my wife and I did not have to experience that pain. But I am even more grateful that God was willing to experience it.
God was willing to go through the worst pain imaginable—the pain of losing a child—because of His great love for us. We must ponder that on those days when we feel insignificant. We must think about that when life's circumstances make us wonder if we are valued by God.
He paid the ultimate price for us. The blood of His Son has washed away our sin and shame. The blood of His Son has restored us to right relationship with Him. The blood of His Son has insured that we will spend eternity in His loving presence.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 John 4:9-10, NLT).
Real love, indeed.