Pain doesn't usually bring about our finest moments. When things turn nasty, it's usually not long before we say something we regret. The words Jesus spoke on the cross reveal the beauty and selflessness of His character. But what He didn't say on the cross also speaks volumes to us who live in a culture full of complainers. Here are six things Jesus didn't say.
1. “You are so going to regret this!”
Jesus had every right to be angry and to condemn those who had unjustly condemned Him. But at Calvary we see perfect love and forgiveness. We see Jesus showing us what it means to love our enemies. The irony is that on the cross Jesus Himself was receiving the full brunt of divine wrath for all our sins. And as judgment was being poured out on Him, He loved us so much that He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
When we’re treated badly, our first impulse isn’t usually to express love and forgiveness. We’re prone to lash out with hurtful words. Let’s invite Jesus to teach us how to speak words of blessing, even when we’re in pain.
2. "I'm not in the mood to chat.”
When Jesus was enduring unimaginable pain, He took the time to have a conversation with the thief beside him. He listened and responded to the man’s spiritual need: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:42) Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
When was the last time you unloaded on a friend about your terrible day? When in pain, many of us love to talk, but it’s usually about us. Pain makes us lousy listeners because in the moment our problems are all that matter. They consume our focus. Let’s learn a lesson here from Jesus and not miss opportunities to minister to others just because we’re stressed out or having a rotten day.
3. “This sucks!”
No one heard Jesus protest how unfair it was. He wasn’t whining about his lot in life. In fact, only one of his seven last words was spoken to ease His physical torment: “I thirst.” (John 19:28b) His focus was on the welfare of others. He made sure that His mother would be taken care of by John: “Woman, here is your son, … Here is your mother." (John 19:26-27)
It doesn’t take much to get us feeling like we’ve got the short end of the stick in life. When things go badly, we’re pretty good at complaining and focusing on ourselves.
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus who trusted the Father when life was at its worst: “not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42b) Let’s look to Christ for strength to focus on the needs of others even when we are hurting.
4. “Do you know who I am?”
Jesus never flaunted His identity and status to earn respect and admiration. On the cross, the only indication of His status was the mockery on the makeshift sign: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19) No person in history has ever been more deserving of respect. But Jesus didn’t demand it. He didn’t stick up for his rights when He was mistreated. He kept silent when He could have used His authority to call down a host of angels to His defense. He let other people watch His example and decide for themselves who he was, like the centurion who watched how He died and said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39).
We tend to get defensive when we’re disrespected. We make it all about our rights and how we don’t deserve this or that. I don’t think Jesus is teaching us to be a doormat, but I do think His example shows us that when we’re mistreated, He will be our defender and protect our reputation. That’s not our job. Sometimes choosing not to defend ourselves means we’re choosing to put the situation and the other person into God’s capable hands.
5. “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”
Jesus didn’t feel sorry for Himself on the cross, but neither did he hide the pain behind a plastic smile like some of us do when we walk into church: “I’m doing great. Praise the Lord! How about you?” Jesus went straight to the Father with his pain and He let others listen in: "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"). (Matthew 27:46) He was expressing His soul-wrenching sense of abandonment and despair with the help of these words from David’s psalm of lament. (Psalm 22:1)
Our pain doesn’t have to stay behind closed doors or a perfunctory smile. It’s OK to lament or express our fears to God, even in the presence of others. We need to give each other permission to do so — to not always be ‘fine.’
“Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
Jesus finished the mission the Father gave Him — He became the perfect intersection of divine justice and mercy — the mediator of reconciliation that ends our alienation from God. And then He rose from the dead so He could dwell in our hearts and heal us, showing us how to love and bless others with our words even when life feels impossible. Let’s center our lives on Christ so our words and actions lead to reconciliation, not harm.
This can be tough to do alone. Consider talking to a mentor about keeping you accountable in the form below!