An Enemy

Jesus in the Garden, from The Passion of the ChristThink of the miracles of Jesus. What is the first miracle that comes to your mind? Put yourself in that miracle. Picture yourself as the one witnessing that miracle. Jesus walking on the water. Turning water into wine. Calming a storm. Healing the man born blind. Raising Lazarus. Picture yourself as the one receiving the miracle. Eating the bread that Jesus multiplied. Having your disease healed. Sailing on a sea that is suddenly calm.

There are 37 miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, all but one of them occurring before the crucifixion. 37 miracles. In the miracles of healing, Jesus was almost always responding to someone asking for healing. The Centurion asked Jesus to heal his daughter. Peter asked Jesus to heal his mother-in-law. A mother asked Jesus to cast demons out of her son.

But there is one miracle that doesn’t generally come to our minds. It is the last miracle Jesus performed before the crucifixion. Put yourself in this miracle.

You are the servant of a well-respected religious leader, the high priest. You have grown up knowing the laws, following them, respecting and obeying those who teach the laws. But lately you have been hearing about a rebellion beginning. It surrounds a man named Jesus from Nazareth. The leaders you have always respected, served and obeyed fear him. And hate him. This man, this Jesus is an enemy to all you hold dear and everything you have known. He breaks laws, including the most sacred Sabbath laws, and he encourages others to do the same.

And now the high priest and other religious leaders have found a way to trap this man, this Jesus. You are one of the first to volunteer to go with the authorities and have him arrested. As you march through the streets, you feel the righteousness in you build. You are doing right; you are not only the servant of the high priest, but the servant of God.

It is in the Garden of Gethsemane that you find him and a few of his upstart followers. Vaguely you are aware of the betrayer greeting Jesus, and you nominally hear Jesus say, “Must you betray me with a kiss?” This fades into the background for you, because you are focused on the small band of men and the confusion and the shouts and the anger and the fear and the fact that one of them has drawn a sword and a sudden blaze of speed and you hear the air whooshing by your ear before you hear nothing at all and the agony streams from the right side of your head and the shrieks you hear seem to come from far away but it is you who is screaming as your own sword drops and you clap your hand to where your ear had been and it comes away sticky with the wetness of the blood that looks black in the dark and once-peaceful garden.

“Put your sword away!” Jesus’ command to his disciple comes buzzing through the blur of pain and blood. And Jesus reaches out and touches your ear. The bleeding stops as bone grows and skin stretches over cartilage. Pain, which had been so mind-numbingly intense and real, is now only a memory, already fading. You are healed. But you are his enemy! You as much as your master want him dead. And yet, he touched you. He healed YOU, his enemy. Words that this man, this Jesus had said come back to your mind: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” and “Whenever you stand praying, forgive.”

This man, this Jesus, is practicing what he has so often said. He is forgiving his enemies. He is forgiving YOU.

This was the last miracle of Jesus before He was crucified and hung on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, the forgiveness of OUR sins. His last miracle was a miracle of not only healing but of love, of forgiveness, of reaching out to love and forgive an enemy. We place ourselves in that enemy’s place, knowing that all of us do in fact stand in the place of the man whose ear Jesus healed, for we have been enemies of God, and we have been forgiven. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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