- the one who loses at arm wrestling
- the one who couldn’t survive two minutes in a boxing match without being knocked out cold
- the one who can only haul half of a package of shingles up the ladder to the roof while the others are slinging a full one over their shoulders
- the one who needs help picking up and moving the big, stuffed chair to the other room instead of just hoisting it and moving it myself
- the one who can’t figure things out without someone giving some input, advice, or answers
- the last one picked for the kickball team
It’s embarrassing to be weak in a society that values strength. It can be demeaning. I don’t like the vulnerability of it. I don’t like the riskiness of it. It makes life more dangerous and definitely harder to be weak. I don’t like the insecurity of it, especially living in a world where victory goes to the strong, in a culture increasingly shaped by a “survival of the fittest” mentality. To be weak is a distinct disadvantage whatever the expression of weakness may be – physical, intellectual, emotional, atheletic, creative, or leadership.
Weakness stinks. I don’t like it and I don’t want to be it.
But then I’m brought to this day, Good Friday. I am taken to a place named “Golgotha,” meaning place of the skull. It was a place of death which made it a place of filth and uncleanness. And there planted vertically on that desecrated ground is a vertical piece of wood intersected by a horizontal one on which a beaten, bloodied person has been fastened with nails through his hands and through his feet, guarded by soldiers, and jeered by onlookers taunting him to free himself and come down from the cross and show them just how strong he is. As cruel as this scene was, it was not an unusual scene in the Roman Empire of the first century. It was one way in which they terrorized the non-Roman citizens into submission to their authority. An execution like this was for the scum of the earth.
The irony of this scene is that by all appearances it is another case of the strong defeating the weak. Trained and physically strong Roman soldiers carried out this deed upon a man who could barely walk to the place of his own execution. Highly trained and religiously strong leaders provoked this deed and insulted a man who endured it with silence. What’s most shocking is that this man was God. Yes, the same God who said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. The same God who said, “Let us make man in our own image, according to our likeness; let them have dominion.” Yes, that same God “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory.” It was that God, the Son of God, who became man, that these men brutalized and mocked. The created conspired against and then crucified the Creator. The One who holds the universe in His hands and in whom all things consist hung in helpless, humiliated weakness as a prize trophy in front of his tormentors while His life’s blood drained from His body. And then, He died.
Death is the ultimate demonstration of our our weakness. We die because we’re mortal and because we’re sinners. We can’t change our mortality any more than an ant can change itself into a man. We can’t erase our sinfulness any more than a leopard can erase its spots. We’re weak. We die.
On the cross Jesus exalted human weakness over human strength. On the cross a torn and taunted man died at the hands of strong and arrogant men. But in that moment of weakness, that Man crushed His arch-enemy Satan; He released a multitude of people from their enslavement to Sin; and He defeated that last and most sinister enemy called Death for all eternity. That is what He did in His weakness. Just think what He will do in His strength! That’s why these words ring so true, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). On the cross Jesus demonstrated what God can do through weakness. He shames the the wise and the strong and brings them all to nothing because the ultimate aim of God in all that He does is that His glory be displayed and enjoyed. The pathway to that enjoyment is weakness filled with God’s grace, not strength filled with myself. Understanding and embracing that is what leads to this confession:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (1 Cor. 12:9b-10)
The sooner I embrace weakness as a blessing, even with its embarrassment, vulnerability, danger, and risk, the sooner I’ll know just how complete and satisfying God’s grace is. Today, I’ll let the cross remind me of that.