I teach youth two Sundays out of the month. If you’ve ever taught teenagers you know they can be a tough crowd, and I think, the cardinal rule of teaching teens is “Don’t let them see you cry”.
When Palm Sunday rolled around, I originally thought I’d teach on the triumphal entry, but decided, instead, to cover the time from Jesus’s arrest to His resurrection. It’s a lot of ground, a ton of scripture, to cover . . . I knew I’d have to move quickly. And, more importantly, the subject matter is heavy . . . there’s no way to avoid that unless you just don’t teach it which was not an option. So, I went over it once, and then, I went over it again and again. I knew what I was teaching. I had a few stopping points, but mostly, I was sharing, straight from the book of Matthew, the story of who this “man” was and is . . . fully God . . . fully man . . . our Savior . . . our Messiah . . . our Jesus. I thought I was prepared.
Here’s the thing, I never used to cry. I don’t like crying. I wasn’t raised to cry so I’ve always been able to shut it off and down quickly. But something has happened to me over the last ten years, and y’all, I cry so easily now.
But I was prepared . . . I knew what I was going to be teaching and reading . . . I thought I had my emotions under control . . . and then I hit Matthew 27:27. . .
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified. Matthew 27:27-31
And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, “I am the Son of God.” Matthew 27:39-43
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27: 44-45
And as I read through those scriptures, all the way through Matthew 28 when the women realize the tomb is empty and Jesus has risen, I cried. I stood there in front of almost 20 teenagers, my voice cracking, stopping to take deep breaths, and I read through all of it, wiping tears the entire time. It wasn’t just what happened to Jesus, I would hope that, at least in private, the brutality of it all, would bring us to tears. But it is more than that. It’s the realization that He could’ve called His angels to save Him. He could’ve “come down from the cross”. He was and is the Son of God. He could’ve spoken up and defended Himself and chosen to not suffer, but He chose the suffering for me. He not only physically suffered to the point of death. He took every sin of all mankind, from Adam and Eve to the end of eternity, upon Himself in those moments. Can you imagine the weight? The crushing guilt and shame? The darkness and depression? And then to have His Heavenly Father have to look away because of those very sins . . . sins Jesus never committed . . . and He did it all for me . . . He did it all for you . . .
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. Isaiah 64:6
My righteousness . . . my goodness . . . my good deeds . . . “are like filthy rags”. I am not good enough. I can never be good enough. You are not good enough. Not a soul that has ever lived is going to be able to earn their way to heaven. That’s why He came. That’s why He suffered. That’s why He died. And that’s why He rose again.
The even better news . . . the best news . . . the most beautiful news . . . not a soul living on this earth is beyond the reach of Jesus’s blood and righteousness . . .
For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13
Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:10-12
So yeah, I cried . . . there were some smirks . . . some smart-alecky comments . . . I’m sure I looked like an idiot, but then one of the sweet girls looked at me afterward and said, “That was really something special wasn’t it?” And she wasn’t talking about my teaching. She was talking about what Jesus did, and you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care if I cry in front of 20 or 100 or 1000 teenagers. I don’t care how humiliating it is. What truly matters is if just one of those kids grasps the sacrifice made and the love of the Savior, Who literally gave all so that we could live victoriously free in Him, both here and for all eternity, then it was and is worth all my tears and discomfort and humiliation.