The Overwhelming Weight of Forgiveness – Genesis 45 & Mark 15
Plastic beads at Mardi Gras.
With Lent less than a month away, the marketplace has started its engines and the slow rev toward this ancient tradition has officially begun. Grocery stores are stocking their shelves with Polish treats and throngs will begin their descent upon New Orleans in mere days for a weeks-long celebration.
At times, it seems the modern day observance of Lent is more anticipated for the sanctioned overindulgence beforehand than for the season itself.
But today I am reminded that Lent, among other things, is a season of hardship resulting in forgiveness. Luckily, the Bible has much to say about both of these things.
The story of Joseph emerges as one of the most powerful stories of forgiveness in all of Scripture. Having been left for dead in a pit, sold into slavery by his own brothers and then wrongly accused and imprisoned—if anyone had reason to hold a grudge, become embittered or seek revenge, Joseph had plenty to go on.
But when his brothers traveled to Egypt seeking help during a time of famine, the love he exhibited stood in stark contrast to the hatred spewed his way thirteen years earlier.
…There was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen 45:1-5)
Despite the terror, abuse and sleepless nights he undoubtedly endured, Joseph seemed to sift out his personal hardship, leaving behind the clear will of God. In some divine manner, Joseph allowed time to ease years of hurt and wrongdoing, choosing instead to see hidden layers of God’s goodness.
This kind of forgiveness is hard to understand.
In fact, we read that his brothers were speechless. Terrified.
Because this kind of love is hard to understand.
If Joseph’s ability to forgive is awe-inspiring, the willingness of Christ to die so that forgiveness could be offered to the entire world, should be jaw-dropping. The utter selflessness of Jesus as he stood silently before Pilate reminds us that our pursuit of self has no room in his story. It should also remind us of the solemnity of the season, and that reducing Lent to circus theatrics diminishes the magnitude of forgiveness shown to us on the cross.
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:16-20)
Like Joseph, Christ was sold for a price. Like Joseph, Christ was carried out a prisoner. Like Joseph, Christ was falsely accused. And like Joseph, he endured hardship “to save lives.”
Despite ridicule and mockery; despite a twisting, flesh-tearing crown of thorns; despite a world who didn’t receive him and wished him dead, Jesus’ singular vision never strayed.
No anger. No bitterness. No revenge. Instead, while hanging in agony on the cross, Jesus extended compassion to the thief breathing his last. His anguish…our forgiveness.
My prayer for us all this Lent is to truly feel the weight of forgiveness and to know it intimately. I pray that we will purpose to make amends and “so far as it depends on you, if possible, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18.)
The kind of forgiveness we contemplate at Lent is hard to understand.
My prayer is that we would carefully measure the exchange made in Jerusalem for your soul and mine. That we would reread the story and listen for the whips cracking. That we would taste the salt of our own tears. That we would more deeply grasp what Calvary means for us. Still.
Because the kind of love we see on display at Lent demands it.
Jane Graham is a paper-and-ink-word-lover and is amazed that God has opened the door to a career in writing. In 2010 Jane helped write Weaving Dreams: the Joy of Work, the Love of Life, which debuted at #13 on the Wall Street Journal List. More importantly, Jane loves being a mom and raising her three kids to be young disciples, to bake great cookies, and to enjoy summer with abandon. While she has put blogging on the back burner for a season, you can learn more about her and her love of Jesus at GirlMeetsPaper.com.