*Below excerpt from my book, The Hope Manifesto. Available HERE

I once saw a picture in an art gallery that depicted the heart of Jesus Christ. As I looked closely, I noticed that His heart was exposed. Looking like a bruised apple, it had an etched gash on the side. The whole heart was circled with a crown of thorns. As I stared at the exposed heart, I was made intensely aware that huge rays of light exploded out of each pierced place out of the depicted heart of Christ.

The heart, though wounded, was still alive.

The heart, though bleeding, was still beating.

Jesus had a bleeding heart. In our age, when we talk about someone having a “bleeding heart,” we usually think of someone who gushes emotionally and is a wimp. However, when it comes to the Lord, His bleeding heart is actually a heart that gushes out an unending supply of love. He was so liberal with His love that He accepted the cross on His shoulders. He could have called down the elite armed forces of heaven to rescue Him, but He accepted the will of the Father.

Today is the day to hear an old truth: Jesus did this because He had already had a broken heart for the suffering ones He had met, the sinful ones who were untouchable, the broken ones He had tried to mend, and the righteous ones He had tried to teach. Bleeding and bearing was the only way to bring order to a world of chaos.

Isn’t it amazing that the One who created light out of darkness, and order out of chaos, all with such beauty, made His most creative act His bloodiest? This was the only way to bring sanity to a world gone mad, with pride and prejudice and violence and vindictiveness. When He saw the way we hurt each other, His heart broke. He could not stand idly by and not rescue the human race. However, He did not call on a rescue package, He was and is the Rescuer. He was the “Offerer” and the Offering.

It is painful to live in this screwed up world. Yet, I am not as worried about the outer cosmos as much as I am my own inner cosmos. My own pain and brokenness needs perspective. My sin needs obliteration. Relationships are drama-filled, and it is tough to build trust. My body craves strange things, and my mind is a war zone of good, bad and totally nasty thoughts (usually all at the same time). It is tough to feel the weight of the inner cosmos that cracks the spirit and breaks the heart.

It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN.

When hearts are broken and woven back together, with thorns instead of thread, we sometimes wonder if we would not be better off dead. However, we cannot die. We have today as a gift, so we sense even more guiltiness for feeling that way and keep on surviving. The cloud forming over our spirit just appears to get darker day after day.

When the anguish of betrayal causes our hearts to harden to new relationships, we pray to even the score with the one who broke our confidence in them.

When our loved one leaves, we wonder why and the heart bleeds.

When someone is hurt by religion and has more authentic relationships at the pub than they ever had at any church, the heart bleeds.

Jesus accepted the cross, because in His heart He knew our pain. Somehow and in some way, He wanted us to know that He understood. He stood under the weight of that wood because He knew that there would be crosses in our lives. When we stop long enough to ask the questions, to feel the pain and to believe the gain, it will be the type of gain that comes when we know pain well enough to stand with others in theirs.

In the Old Testament, Moses took the blood, splashed it on the people, “…and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant…” Now because blood was about life and death, that was about the most serious thing they knew. Again, this just goes deep into people. It’s kind of a weird thing.

You may have heard the phrase, “blood brothers” used in years past. If you had somebody you wanted to be a blood brother with, you would prick your thumb, and they would do the same to theirs, so there could be a little tiny bit of mingling of blood. It was a way of saying, “This is my solemn vow.” The act of sacrifice told everybody who saw it that sin and the forgiveness of sin are not casual.

They are somehow a matter of life and death. Nobody who thoughtfully came to God in worship during sacrifice could believe sin was a superficial, unimportant casual deal. Every sacrifice proclaimed there is something about sin that is ultimately lethal. There is something about forgiveness that is unspeakably costly.

The Old Testament sign of the blood being shed sent a strong message to the people about the sacrifice, “already dead.” When the blood was applied, as in when the Hebrew children placed the blood of the lambs over the door post so the death angel would pass over them, the angel knew there was no reason to take that houses’ first born. The blood notified the death angel, “this house is already dead!” Already taken, already blessed, and already broken. When you get up under the blood, the world sees that it is not you that lives anymore, because you are covered in the blood of THE sacrifice.

So, IF you are already dead, only then can you truly LIVE.

Somebody else shed this blood…

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