I love The Princess Bride. It’s one of my all time favorite movies. My sister and I can quote lines from it back and forth. As much as I love the story, there are some parts I wish would be different. I always turn my eyes when they go into the Fire Swamp and Westley is attacked by the R.O.U.S. I don’t like it when he is tortured in the Pit of Despair by the evil Count Rugen and the coward Prince Humperdinck. Every. single. time. All I wanted was for Westley and Buttercup to ride off into the sunset and tell each other “As you wish” all the days of their lives.
That is how I felt about today’s reading. I don’t like the part about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Yes, I know how it will end but that portion is not for two more days according to my schedule. I don’t like the road He takes to get there. To me, I’d like the shortest – and fastest – possible route with the least possible interruption, let alone pain.
It makes me marvel – Jesus knew what was before Him, He knew it wouldn’t be easy. Yes, He was still God but He divested His divine powers to experience all the emotions and hardship of men. He experienced fatigue, He felt hunger, He wept. And on one particular night, He sweated drops of blood in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). “O My Father,” He cried. “If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matt 26:42) He did this three times according to Matthew, always ending with the same phrase. Thy will be done. I think that was the key to His endurance, the endurance of Jesus as a man – the total surrender to God’s will.
When He was brought before Pilate and was questioned, He answered not (Matthew 27:12, 14). He knew the accusations were false yet He did not defend Himself. He did not take a short cut. He did not call upon legions of angels to save Him. He knew what He was going to go through and He did it. He chose the long hard road to Calvary. Total surrender.
How did He do it? If I may venture a guess, I think it was His focus. Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. His eyes were fixed – not on the trial, nor the suffering, but on the joy that was set before Him. What was the joy that was set before Him? It’s you and me. He endured the trek on Via Dolorosa because of us.
I don’t know about you but I try to avoid that road as much as I can. So knowing He did it for me prompts me to cry, Lord, am I worth that much to You? Because some days, I don’t even like myself – when I lose my temper or get an attitude. When I can’t even endure the littlest inconvenience, the littlest interruption, or the littlest pain without complaining. I feel guilty that He did that for me. I feel guilty that it seemed such a waste and I can’t return the favor. Nothing that I will go through will ever compare to what He went through. That kind of love, that kind of grace is inconceivable. I’m still learning to accept it day by day.
Just like in the movie, if Buttercup knew what Westley had to go through, she wouldn’t have felt worthy of such sacrifice. But it wasn’t her decision to make. In Westley’s eyes, she was worth it. And just think if Westley did not suffer. he would not have died and we would have missed out on Miracle Max asking Wesley the real reason why he wanted to live. What is it that is worth living for? True Love, said the mostly-dead Wesley. True love.
And you know what? That was Jesus’ reason, too.
Thank you, Jesus for Your sacrifice. Oh on our best days we do not deserve it. But thank you for Your grace. Thank you for enduring the cross for our sake. Thank you for teaching us about grace. Help us to extend it to others and live like You lived. Help us to totally surrender our hearts, minds and souls to the One True God. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray.
[Reading from Blue Letter Bible – Chronological Plan]