Words That Wound
The dialogue that Friday morning was bitter.
From the onlookers, "Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God!"
From the religious leaders, "He saved others but he can't save himself."
From the soldiers, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself."
Bitter words. Acidic with sarcasm. Hateful. Irreverent. Wasn't it enough that he was being crucified? Wasn't it enough that he was being shamed as a criminal? Were the nails insufficient? Was the crown of thornss too soft? Had the flogging been too short?
For some, apparently so.
Peter, a writer not normally given to using many descriptive verbs, says that the passers-by "hurled" insults at the crucified Christ. They didn't just yell or speak or scream. They "hurled" verbal stones. They had every intention of hurting and bruising. "We've broken the body, now let's break the spirit!" So they strung their bows with self-righteousness and launched stinging arrows of pure poison.
Of all the scenes around the cross, this one angers me the most. What kind of people, I ask myself, would mock a dying man? Who would be so base as to pour the salt of scorn upon open wounds? How low and perverted to sneer at one who is laced with pain. Who would make fun of a person who is seated in an electric chair? Or who would point and laugh at a criminal who has a hangman's noose around his neck?
You can be sure that Satan and his demons were the cause of such filth.
And then the criminal on cross number two throws his punch.
"Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
The words thrown that day were meant to wound. And there is nothing more painful than words meant to hurt. That's why James called the tongue a fire. Its burns are every bit as destructive and disastrous as those of a blowtorch.
But I'm not telling you anything new. No doubt you've had your share of words that wound. You've felt the sting of a well-aimed gibe. Maybe you're still feeling it. Someone you love or respect slams you to the floor with a slur or slip of the tongue. And there you lie, wounded and bleeding. Perhaps the words were intended to hurt you, perhaps not; but that doesn't matter. The wound is deep. The injuries are internal. Broken heart, wounded pride, bruised feelings.
Or maybe your wound is old. Though the arrow was extracted long ago, the arrowhead is still lodged . . . . hidden under your skin. The old pain flares unpredictably and decisively, reminding you of harsh words yet unforgiven.
If you have suffered or are suffering because of someone else's words, you'll be glad to know that there is a balm for this laceration. Meditate on these words from 1 Peter 2:23
Did you see what Jesus did not do? He did not retaliate. He did not bite back. He did not say, "I'll get you!" "Come on up here and say that to my face!" "Just wait until after the resurrection, buddy!" No, these statements were not found on Christ's lips.
Did you see what Jesus did do? He "entrusted himself to him who judges justly." Or said more simply, he left the judging to God. He did not take on the task of seeking revenge. He demanded no apology. He hired no bounty hunters and sent out no posse. He, to the astonishing contrary, spoke on their defense. "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing."
Yes, the dialogue that Friday morning was bitter. The verbal stones were meant to sting. How Jesus, with a body wracked with pain, eyes blinded by his own blood, and lungs yearning for air, could speak on behalf of some heartless thugs is beyond my comprehension. Never, never have I seen such love. If ever a person deserved a shot at revenge, Jesus did. But he didn't take it. Instead he died for them. How could he do it? I don't know. But I do know that all of a sudden my wounds seem very painless. My grudges and hard feelings are suddenly childless.
Sometimes I wonder if we don't see Christ's love as much in the people he tolerated as in the pain he endured.
By Max Lucado
Softly and Tenderly