Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:4–8 NRSV)
In the spring of 1990, I experienced my first encounter with the crucifixion story. I was seven years old and spending the weekend before Easter with my aunt and uncle. Until that point, my Easter experience had only included magical bunnies that, for some biologically improbable reason, were able to produce hard-boiled eggs (and thankfully some chocolate ones as well) left in baskets on the doorsteps of excited children. As I sat at the dining room table that Friday night, preparing for an exciting evening of egg dying, blissfully unaware that the basket of eggs I’d receive were the ones I had dyed myself by mixing vinegar with the color tablets from my PAAS™️ egg-dying kit, my aunt turned on the TV in the adjacent family room.
Like most millennial children, I was immediately curious about what was happening on the screen. I saw a disheveled man carrying a large, wooden, lowercase ‘t’-shaped structure down an aisle. His face was bloodied, and people were screaming at him as he walked by. Though I was old enough to understand the differences between fiction and non-fiction and knew this was a production of some sort, it still evoked a profound, visceral reaction witnessing a man be tortured and killed. Ever the tender heart, I sobbed while my aunt scrambled to change the channel. It would be several years before I learned that the production I witnessed was based on actual events and trust the resurrected Christ with my life.
Somehow, in the Gospel narrative, between the betrayal and the blood, we have the example of the long-suffering Savior Jesus, laying himself down repeatedly. In Philippians 2:5–8, Paul writes about the gentle, humble character of Jesus, even walking through the valley of the shadow of his own impending death.
Jesus didn’t just happen to be good at being gentle because he had the correct Enneagram number. His nature was a fulfillment of prophecy to complete what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name, the nations will put their hope” (Matthew 12:17–21 NIV).
In the week leading up to his death, Jesus further exemplifies his expectation of us to embody gentleness. We witness it when he encourages a defensive Peter to lay his weapon down (John 18:11) and in his calm response to being struck by one of his arresting officers when he wasn’t even resisting (John 18:23). Unbelievably, Jesus continues to display his unbreakable commitment to a provocative way of existing by praying that those who unjustly murdered him wouldn’t be condemned, but liberated by grace (Luke 23:34). And finally, on the cusp of death, a guilty man being crucified next to Jesus asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” He replies gently with one of his final breaths, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42–43 NIV).
One of my favorite moments in scripture is after Jesus’s resurrection in John 21:12 when he makes breakfast for his disciples. Can you even imagine? They had witnessed Jesus die; they had watched his body lay in a tomb as the world went dark around them. They grieved and doubted and questioned their sanity, and now this man they thought they’d never see on earth again was hosting a morning fish fry.
Though Jesus was keenly aware of the doubt the disciples had felt upon his death, he didn’t return with a lecture or shame them for their unbelief. Instead, Jesus breaks bread and shares a meal with them. He meets us in the same way in our doubt: full of grace, still wanting communion with his creation.
Sarah Sciarini is the director of Communications for First Baptist Church in Lodi, California, and NorCal NAB. She’s is also a part of EYELET working to elevate the voices of younger leaders in the NAB.