The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is “yes.” We have all been misunderstood.
It is the plight of humanity that we have universally known the experience of having other people not understand us, not know our intentions, not appreciate our efforts, not “get it” when we even tried our best to make ourselves known. We all know the feeling that comes with such an experience.
How about the times when you’ve been accused of something you didn’t do? Accused of saying what you didn’t say or meaning what you didn't mean?
How about the times when someone might have been afraid of you for no good reason? All because you were badly misunderstood? Ever been there? Remember the feeling?
For me that is one of the loneliest feelings on earth. Not being able to connect with someone enough to make myself known or understood. And experiencing such a disconnect with someone I love is a pain all its own.
Which reminds me of Good Friday.
And of Jesus.
Jesus may have been the most widely misunderstood man on the planet. Take, for example, his apparent statements about God’s Kingdom of Heaven coming to earth as good news for the poor and oppressed. That one failed to compute. Username or password not recognized. But let's just assume he meant that he was King of the Jews and would be challenging Caesar, the King of Roman Empire and, therefore, of the Jews. Guilty of insurrection. Punishable by crucifixion.
Or let’s take another example of how Jesus was misunderstood. God’s Temple would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days. Guilty of blasphemy. Punishable by………? Well, let’s take a look at the Jewish Law: “One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death” Leviticus 24:16. No witness against Jesus could accurately testify that he had blasphemed the name of the Lord; only the Temple in which the Lord lived. So they couldn’t stone him to death. Rats! They’d have to come up with another charge the Roman government could take up. Aha! His own Kingdom! He preached about it. And then riding into the capital of Jerusalem on a colt? 2 + 2 = 7. Crucify him!
At this point I’m going to throw you a curve. I’ll pretend it is actually baseball season despite COVID 19. Multiple choice question: Who was most afraid of losing power when Jesus was hailed with hosannahs while riding that colt in triumphal entry last Sunday? Was it:
I’m guessing B. Caiaphas. He came closest to being “King of the Jews,” which he knew was not allowed under Roman Law. He was instead “Chief High Priest” that year. Still the highest, most powerful, job in the land.....for a Jew. Still a nice job if you can get it. And keep it.
A little more context is necessary. You see, Jesus had raised Lazarus just a few miles outside the capital city and was now the most popular Jew on the planet, without a doubt. The Chief Priests that Caiaphas led convened a special meeting with the Pharisees. Get the legal team together and weigh the choices. What to do, what to do? Let’s talk risks and benefits. But “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” -- John 11:50. In other words, he misunderstood Jesus believing he would be out to take his own job away and would get himself appointed as the Chief High Priest.. He had to convince the team they would all lose their jobs!
Ever have anybody feel threatened by you, thinking you wanted his or her job? When that’s about the last thing you could have ever wanted? Ever had somebody try to sway the whole team against you as a threat to them all? Oh, c’mon. It still happens today.
People get misunderstood. And fear happens. Faith in fear, doubt in love. It all comes together.
Punishments, cruel ones, happen out of misunderstandings. It’s about fearful control. Control over you. And me. Or anyone else who is misunderstood to be a threat of any kind. It’s the human condition. It’s what racism is all about. And sexism. And misogyny. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Fears born of misunderstandings leading to punishment for the sake of retaining control over others…….like you. And like Jesus, the crucified Christ;
God gets it now. Puts the good in Good Friday.
Through Jesus, God empathizes with us. With you. With me. With every human being who’s ever been misunderstood and mistreated. Abused. Tortured. Killed. God is with us, united, at-oned, a oneness of feeling. God through his Son Jesus knows the best and worst of what it’s like to be human. And God knows that love involves the hard work of understanding, correctly, what another is “going through” and “feeling like.”
Next question is “what are you going through and feeling like today?” Anyone misunderstanding you lately? Anybody ever try to fearfully control you and keep you down? Anyone ever have faith in fear and doubt in love where you were concerned? Consider you a threat to his or her own power?
Welcome to Good Friday. Welcome to Jesus’s world. Welcome to the painful pit of darkness.
It’s Friday, but remember.