As we turn our attention this week to beautiful images of the bloody Jesus, one that I think often slips by unnoticed is the image of Jesus as Teacher.
For most of His life, this is how He was known. He was not known as the prophet. He was not known as the priest. He was not known as the Messiah. To His disciples, to the crowds, to the region, this Jesus was known as Teacher, and He spent much of His ministry shedding light on the Scriptures (and in the beautiful way that God always does these things, bringing light to them, as well).
And the teachings of Jesus were revolutionary. Just take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, where He turned nearly every understanding of the Mosaic law on its head. Hate your enemies? No. Love them. Curse them? No! Pray for them. Commit adultery with a woman? Never. Don't even lust after her. When you're forced to carry a bag one mile, carry it for two. When someone asks for your tunic, give him also your coat.
Over and over and over again, Jesus took what looked like the Law and turned it into Love, and it both astonished and challenged those who sat at His feet. (It's also why the Pharisees hated Him so. They had made a life out of Law but had no room in their Law for Love.)
I know, I know. At this point, I haven't really told you anything new. But here it is: in the crucifixion, Jesus put into practice everything He taught. The final hours of Jesus's life were a living example of Jesus's teaching.
He said you wouldn't need to defend yourself (Luke 12:12), and indeed, He stood before Pilate without a word.
He said if you're asked for your tunic, give also your coat, and He let Himself be stripped bare before the vengeful crowd.
He said when you're forced to carry something, carry it faithfully, and then He shoulders His cross and sets His eyes toward Golgotha.
He said to pray for your enemies, and there on the hill, He cried out on their behalf. Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.
And, by the way, He also was a strong advocate of forgiveness.
If you're looking for a reflection to engage in on this Holy Week, this is a good one and one we're not accustomed really to looking at, but read through the passages depicting Jesus's final hours and see how many of His teachings are lived out in those moments. See how often He embodies His own words. See how Love triumphs over Law for the innocent Lamb led to slaughter.
For this great Teacher of ours was also a student of Love, and its truth rings out from the garden to the gates to Golgotha.