By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
How could they love Him enough not to punish Him when He went missing?
He was gone for three days when they found Him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, questioning them. He was only 12. His poor parents had to be scared to death.
But how could they not love Him enough? After all, this was no ordinary child, and they knew it. They knew He was not conceived in the normal way, they had to know He would not live anything approaching a normal life.
And when He finally left home and set out on His own, how could His friends love Him enough to walk away from the lives they knew, to leave homes, jobs and families, and travel the countryside with Him, preaching, teaching, healing and inspiring?
But how could they not love Him enough? He showed them miracles, offered them a glimpse of a new world, one much larger and more beautiful than the cruel one in which they struggle to eke out an existence, some of them hauling in nets full of fish with their bare hands. He told them that with Him, they would be fishing for the souls of human beings.
How could they love Him enough, these people to whom he ministered, and who flocked to merely find themselves in His presence?
But how could they not love Him enough? He had something to offer all of them. Some He healed, others He forgave, and to all He offered hope and salvation.
He loved them with all His heart, those that followed Him faithfully, those who needed Him, those who wanted Him, those who longed for Him. How could He not love them, since it was them He was sent to serve, tasked to save.
They loved Him as He restored their sight, strengthened their withered limbs, rid them of their demons. They loved Him as He fed them, not only with loaves and fishes, but with encouraging words. How could they not love Him enough?
They loved Him best the day He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. They spread palm branches in His path and showered Him with calls of “hosanna,” hailing Him as their new king. And how could they not love Him, since He was, after all, going to save them from the yoke of Roman oppression, to drive out the occupiers.
But He wasn’t, of course. He wasn’t that kind of king. He cared nothing for worldly politics, His sights set instead on heavenly matters. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” He told them. They listened, but most did not hear.
Others listened too, and they heard. They saw Him as a threat, challenging Jewish law and the efficacy of the faith’s leaders, the so-called righteous men. He was different, He was unconventional, He was dangerous.
How could they hate Him enough to treat Him as they did, to turn the heart of one of His own with silver, to arrest Him, to drag Him before authorities for a sham trial, to condemn Him to a painful, humiliating death.
How could they hate Him enough to turn their backs on Him, to choose a dangerous criminal over Him, to scourge Him, to mock Him, to spit upon Him, to drive iron nails through His hands and feet to bind Him to planks of wood, to pierce His side with a spear, to deny repeatedly that they even knew Him?
How could they hate Him that much?
And as He hung on the cross, with His very life ebbing away, suffering utter agony and struggling for every breath, how could He love them enough not to be bitter, angry and vengeful? How could He love them enough to forgive them, to pray for them, to care for them, to assure them a place with Him in paradise? How could He love them enough to not hate them?
He could have saved Himself. He could have walked away, laid down the bitter cup He had been handed and refused to drink from it.
When Pilate asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He could have denied it, could have refuted all the charges against Him, could have received much lighter punishment, or gotten off scot-free.
He could have called down fire from heaven, called up brimstone from the nether place and left His oppressors groveling in the dust, or simply turned them to dust.
How could He love them enough not to?
How could He love them enough to die for their sins when they didn’t seem to know, didn’t seem to care? How could He love them enough? How could He love us enough?
But He did, and He does, and He will. Hallelujah.
Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.