The Exception

 

When evil reigns, is there any greater honor than to be...  The Exception.

 

    I have always been a tremendous admirer of Gustaf Doré. My father had a collection of his famous pen-and-ink illustrations on his bookshelf and, way back in my earliest years, I would pore over that thing, page after page: the gruesome scenes from Dante's Inferno, episodes from Don Quixote, captivating images from Paradise Lost, myths and fables and fairy tales and, of course, most famous of all: his marvelous scenes from the Bible. 

All of Doré's works are exquisite, but down through the years, one of them especially resonates with me. 

It is entitled "Crown of Thorns" and it captures the very moment when that awful thing was placed upon our Savior's head. It is a moment of pure evil...

The Roman soldiers are all in on this. They are not in uniform; it is after hours. The soldiers have all come out from their barracks to join in the fun: mocking and taunting this 'prisoner' that somehow has been given the title of 'Messiah'. 'King of the Jews', they have heard He is called. "Oh he is, is he? Well, by all means then, let's give 'im a crown! Hey everybody! There's a 'king' out in the courtyard! A coronation is underway. Better come show some respect!" And so all the soldiers have come out.

As the crown of thorns is being placed, a few of the soldiers fall to their knees in fake adoration, bowing and scraping before Him. Others are stooping behind him; one of them so drunk he must be held up by a friend. A Pharisee stands among them: looking on as the painful thorns are jammed onto His head. And through it all, Jesus just sits there, holding His "scepter" of reeds, just letting it all happen. "The Son of Man must suffer many things..."  if He wants to redeem this world from its sins. (Lk 9: 22) 

In typical Doré fashion, one man kneels beside him, clasping his hands in fake supplication and looking up at Him with a perfectly devilish expression on his face. Perhaps he is the Devil, who knows? That same evil leer shows up in a few other of Doré's Passion scenes. 

Like I said: a moment of pure evil. But it's a moment that could just as well have happened in our generation; as a matter of fact, I think it still does.  

Do you know what that Crown of Thorns really represents? Us! Our world! To this very day, the world keeps piercing the Savior with its tauntings and its mockery. People use His name as an expletive now. They scoff at the Gospels that tell His Good News. They taunt His followers as 'bigots' and 'neanderthals'. Our Governor labels His church 'non-essential.' 

Several years ago, Bill Maher stood up before an audience in Vegas and spent 15 minutes making one joke after another about Jesus and His death on the Cross, while the audience roared its approval. Every Easter week, the gay community in San Francisco holds a blasphemous 'Jesus Parade', despising the only One who could ever rescue them from the lonely bondage of their lifestyle. And, always, of course, the ACLU has seizures at the very mention of His name. 

Oh, that Crown of Thorns is still with us, dear ones! In fact, it is us: our generation! 

But—praise God!—you are the exception, aren't you? Isn't it wonderful to be one? 

Oh, by the way, there's one more person in Doré's picture. I wonder if you noticed him there? He is very important. Doré included him for a reason. (And this isn't the only instance of it either; check out Doré's other works, like "Christ Mocked"). 

With the other soldiers gathered round Him, mocking and taunting and spurring things on, this one soldier stays in the background. He's come out of the barracks with the rest of them all, but he's not taking part. He's just watching. In fact, he has climbed up a wall and is now hinging himself with his arms over the wall, in order to get a better look at what's happening...

...and what he sees is troubling him! There's a troubled look on his face! Praise God! Right at this most evil of moments, this one man is an 'exception'. Perhaps he's the Centurion who stood at the foot of the Cross, or someone else just like him, with an open heart. 

There will always be exceptions, dear ones, and—praise God!—you're one of them! Let "the nations and the peoples rage against the Lord and His anointed" (Ps 2:1-2); you will be the exception! How blessed if that is true! 

Stand strong, dear faithful one! Don't be discouraged while all the world rails, and do not yield an inch! Lift up your head, and never apologize! For your Savior is coming, just for you! When He returns to put an end to the world's evils, He will find you—an exception to it all! And I can't think of a greater honor, can you? 

 

See you Sunday!                             RAS

"By Doing Good"