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    God sees us as we are intended to be

 

The passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “Six Hours One Friday,” published in 1989 by Multnomah Books.

 

     Ninety feet tall. One thousand three hundred twenty tons of reinforced Brazilian tile. Positioned on a mountain a mile and one-half above sea level. It’s the famous Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

     No tourist comes to Rio without snaking up Corcovado Mountain to see this looming monument. The head alone is nine feet tall. The span from fingertip to fingertip---sixty-three feet.

     While living in Rio, I saw the statue dozens of times. But no time was as impressive as the first.

     I was a college student spending a summer in Brazil. Except for scampers across the Mexican border, this was my first trip outside the continental U.S. I had known this monument only through National Geographic magazine. I was to learn that no magazine can truly capture the splendor of Cristo Redentor.

     Below me was Rio. Seven million people swarming on the lush green mountains that crash into the bright blue Atlantic. Behind me was the Christ the Redeemer statue. As I looked at the towering edifice through my telephoto lens, two ironies caught my attention.

     I couldn’t help but notice the blind eyes. Now, I know what you are thinking---all statues have blind eyes. You are right, they do. But it’s as if the sculptor of this statue intended that the eyes be blind. There are no pupils to suggest vision. There are no circles to suggest sight. There are only Little Orphan Annie openings.

     I lowered my camera to my waist. What kind of redeemer is this? Blind? Eyes fixated on the horizon, refusing to see the mass of people at its feet?

     I saw the second irony as I again raised my camera. I followed the features downward, past the strong nose, past the prominent chin, past the neck. My focus came to rest on the cloak of the statue. On the outside of the cloak there is a heart. A Valentine’s heart. A simple heart.

     A stone heart.

     The unintended symbolism staggered me. What kind of redeemer is this? Heart made of stone? Held together not with passion and love, but by concrete and mortar. What kind of redeemer is this? Blind eyes and stony heart?

     I’ve since learned the answer to my own question: What kind of redeemer is this? Exactly the kind of redeemer most people have.

     Oh, most people would not admit to having a blind redeemer with a stone heart. But take a close look.

            For some, Jesus is a good luck charm. The “Rabbit’s Foot Redeemer” Pocket sized. Handy. Easily packaged. Easily understood. Easily diagramed. You can put his picture on your wall or you can stick it in your wallet as insurance. You can frame him. Dangle him from your rearview mirror or glue him to your dashboard.

     His specialty? Getting you out of a jam. Need a parking place? Rub the redeemer. Need help on a quiz? Pull out the rabbit’s foot. No need to have a relationship with him. No need to love him.

Just keep him in your pocket next to your four-leaf clover.

     For many he’s an “Aladdin’s Lamp Redeemer.” New jobs. Pink Cadillacs. New and improved spouses. Your wish is his command. And what’s more, he conveniently reenters the lamp when you don’t want him around.

     For others, Jesus is a “Monty Hall Redeemer” All right, Jesus, let’s make a deal. For fifty-two Sundays a year, I’ll put on a costume—coat and tie, hat and hose---and I’ll endure any sermon you throw at me. In exchange, you give me the grace behind pearly gate number three.”

     The Rabbit’s Foot Redeemer. The Aladdin’s Lamp Redeemer. The Monty Hall Redeemer. Few demands, no challenges. No need for sacrifice. No need for commitment.

 

     Sightless and heartless redeemers. Redeemers without power. That’s not the Redeemer of the New Testament.

            Compare the blind Christ I saw in Rio to the compassionate one seen by a frightened woman early one morning in Jerusalem.1

     It’s dawn. The early morning sun stretches a golden blanket across the streets of the city. Diamonds of dew cling to blades of grass. A cat stretches as it awakens. The noises are scattered.

     A rooster crows his early morning recital.

     A dog barks to welcome the day.

     A peddler shuffles down the street, his wares on his back.

     And a young carpenter speaks in the courtyard.

     Jesus sits surrounded by a horseshoe of listeners. Some nod their heads in agreement and open their hearts in obedience. They have accepted the teacher as their teacher and are learning to accept him as their Lord.

     Others are curious, wanting to believe yet wary of this one whose claims so stretch the boundaries of belief.

     Whether cautious or convinced, they listen keenly. They arose early. There was something about his words that was more comforting than sleep.

     We don’t know his topic that morning. Prayer, perhaps. Or maybe kindness or anxiety. But whatever it was, it was soon interrupted when people burst into the courtyard.

     Determined, they erupt out of a narrow street and stomp toward Jesus. The listeners scramble to get out of the way. The mob is made up of religious leaders, the elders and deacons of their day. Respected and important men. And struggling to keep her balance on the crest of this angry wave is a scantily clad woman.

            Only moments before she had been in bed with a man who is not her husband. Was this how she made her living?  Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe her husband was gone, her heart was lonely, the stranger’s touch was warm, and before she knew it, she had done it. We don’t know.

     But we do know that a door was jerked open and she was yanked from a bed. She barely had time to cover her body before she was dragged into the street by two men the age of her father. What thoughts raced through her mind as she scrambled to keep her feet.

     Curious neighbors stuck heads through open windows. Sleepy dogs yelped at the ruckus.

     And now, with holy strides, the mob storms toward the teacher. They throw the woman in his direction. She nearly falls.

     “We found this woman in bed with a man!” cries the leader. “The law says to stone her. What do you say?”

     Cocky with borrowed courage they smirk as they watch the mouse go for the cheese.

     The woman searches the faces, hungry for a compassionate glance. She finds none. Instead, she sees accusation. Squinty eyes.

Tight lips. Gritted teeth. Stares that sentence without seeing.

     Cold, stony hearts that condemn without feeling.

     She looks down and sees the rocks in their hands---the rocks of righteousness intended to stone the lust out of her. The men squeeze them so tightly that their fingertips are white. They squeeze them as if the rocks were the throat of this preacher they hate.

            In her despair she looks at the Teacher. His eyes don’t glare. “Don’t worry,” they whisper, “it’s okay.” And for the first time that morning she sees kindness.

     When Jesus saw her, what did he see? Did he see her as a father sees his grown daughter as she walks down the wedding aisle? The father’s mind races back through time watching his girl grow up again---from diapers to dolls. From classrooms to boyfriends. From the prom date to the wedding day. The father sees it all as he looks at his daughter.

     As Jesus looked at this daughter, did his mind race back? Did he relive the act of forming this child in heaven? Did he see her as he had originally made her?

     “Knitted together” is how the psalmist described the process of God making man.2 Not manufactured or mass-produced, but knitted. Each thread of personality tenderly intertwined. Each string of temperament deliberately selected.

     God as creator. Pensive. Excited. Inventive,

 

     An artist, brush on pallet, seeking the perfect shade.

     A composer, fingers on keyboard, listening for the exact chord.

     A poet, pen poised on paper, awaiting the precise word.

     The Creator, the master weaver, threading together the soul.

 

     Each one different. No two alike. None identical.

     On earth, Jesus was an artist in a gallery of his own paintings. He was a composer listening as the orchestra interpreted his music. He was a poet hearing his own poetry. Yet his works of art had been defaced. Creation after battered creation.

     He had created people for splendor. They had settled for mediocrity. He bad formed them with love. They had scarred each other with hate.

 

     When he saw businessmen using God-given intelligence to feed Satan-given greed. . .

     When he saw tongues he had designed to encourage used as daggers to cut. . .

     When he saw hands that had been given for holding used as weapons for hurting. . .

     When he saw eyes into which he’d sprinkled joy now burning with hatred. . .

 

     I wonder, did it weary him to see hearts that were stained, even discarded?

     Jesus saw such a heart as he looked at this woman. Her feet were bare and muddy. Her arms hid her chest, and her hands clutched each other under her chin. And her heart, her heart was rugged, torn as much by her own guilt as by the mob’s anger.

     So, with the tenderness only a father can have, he set out to untie the knots and repair the holes.

     He begins by diverting the crowd’s attention. He draws on the ground. Everybody looks down. The woman feels relief as the eyes of the men look away from her.

      The accusers are persistent. “Tell us, teacher! What do you want us to do with her?”

     He could have asked why they didn’t bring the man. The Law indicted him as well. He could have asked why they were suddenly blowing the dust off an old command that had sat on the shelves for centuries. But he didn’t.

     He just raised his head and offered an invitation, “I guess if you’ve never made a mistake, then you have a right to stone this woman.” He looked hack down and began to draw on the earth again.

     Someone cleared his throat as if to speak, but no one spoke. Feet shuffled. Eyes dropped. Then thud.., thud.. thud.. .rocks fell to the ground.

     And they walked away. Beginning with the grayest beard and ending with the blackest, they turned and left. They came as one, but they left one by one.

     Jesus told the woman to look up. “Is there no one to condemn you?” He smiled as the raised her head. She saw no one, only rocks---each one a miniature tombstone to mark the burial place of a man’s arrogance.

     “Is there no one to condemn you?” he had asked. There is still one who can, she thinks. And she turns to look at him.

     What does he want? What will he do?

     Maybe she expected him to scold her. Perhaps she expected him to walk away from her. I’m not sure, but I do know this: What she got, she never expected. She got a promise and a commission.

            The promise “Then neither do I condemn you.”

     The commission: “Go and sin no more”

     The woman turns and walks into anonymity. She’s never seen or heard from again. But we can be confident of one thing: On that morning in Jerusalem, she saw Jesus and Jesus saw her. And could we somehow transport her to Rio de Janeiro and let her stand at the base of the Cristo Redentor, I know what her response would be.

     “That’s not the Jesus I saw,” she would say. And she would be right. For the Jesus she saw didn’t have a hard heart. And the Jesus that saw her didn’t have blind eyes.

     However, if we could somehow transport her to Calvary and let her stand at the base of the cross. . .you know what she would say. “That’s him,” she would whisper. “That’s him.”

     She would recognize his hands. The only hands that had held no stones that day were his. And on this day they still hold no stones. She would recognize his voice. It’s raspier and weaker, but the words are the same, “Father, forgive them....” And she would recognize his eyes. How could she ever forget those eyes? Clear and tear filled. Eyes that saw her not as she was, but as she was intended to be. (85-93)

 

Notes

1. John 8:1-11 NIV

2. Psalm 139:13 NIV

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