Every year, as Easter fast approaches and catches me off guard, I attempt to reread George Herbert’s poem The Sacrifice. Every year a different stanza or two grab my heart strings and command my attention; this year was no exception. Two of the Biblical images Herbert so painfully, but poetically paints have seared my mind and heart this past week.
They buffet me, and box me as they list,
Who grab the earth and heaven with my fist,
And never yet, whom I would punish, miss’d;
Was ever grief like mine? (lines 130-134)
Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from whence all store
Of heavenly blessings issue evermore:
Was ever grief like mine? (lines 170-174).
His Hands, Our Hands
Two Scriptures comparing humanity to divinity come to mind when I think of hands. Two rhetorical questions, one from God’s interaction with Isaiah and another from His interaction with Job.
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales?” Isaiah 40:12.
“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt to bring rain on a land where no man in, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?” Job 38:25-27.
Jesus used His metaphorical hands to measure out all the oceans in one span, the way we would use our thumb and index finger to determine the amount of miles between two places on an old-school map. He traced careening canyons with his little finger. Majesty. Yet, when Jesus took on flesh and wore skin, He allowed himself to be punched with the fists of His own creatures. The phalanges that He dreamed up and placed in the intricate hands of mankind were used to box His own precious face.
His Head, Our Fountainhead
The forehead is landing pad for smooches in our house. I love to tussle my little guys’ heads of unruly hair and sneak a quick kiss onto their soft foreheads. As they get bigger, the landing pad only grows, but the resistance also grows!
When I think of the precious head and forehead of Jesus being scarred by the tears of terrible thorns rather than kissed, when I think of His head receiving blows rather than besos (kisses in Spanish for my non-San Diegan friends), my own forehead furrows and my heart sinks. Mary most likely kissed that forehead and tussled that head as her son grew up. Little did she understand that his sacred head would one day be scarred.
In the stanza above from The Sacrifice, George Herbert is drawing a parallel from Exodus to the Crucifix. In Exodus, when God’s people are complaining in the wilderness wanderings, God tells Moses to strike a rock with his staff; when the rock is struck, water pours out, satisfying the thirst of the people. Herbert pictures Christ’s head as being the struck rock from whom streams of living water would flow.
Christ’s precious head being struck by the bludgeons of angry soldiers that He might become the fountainhead from which springs of living water would flow to us who are as guilty as the striking soldiers.
His head became our Fountainhead. What manner of love is this?
As Easter approaches, may we linger long on the face and hands of Christ. As we do so, may we begin to become the face and hands of Christ to others who are as thirsty for life as were the Israelites in the desert.