During Advent, many – even those without Christian faith – focus on the Baby in the manger. I understand why. In the midst of life’s too-frequent upheavals, I also like to let my heart turn to that silent night, that holy night, when all was calm and all was bright.
But rarely do I contemplate that idyllic scene when I do not also fast-forward to the other part of that first Advent: from the Bethlehem cradle to Golgotha’s cross.
One morning as I followed that thought, I pictured Him in my mind’s eye at the whipping post. Soldiers had stripped Him of His clothes and tied His wrists above His head.
Then suddenly and without so much as a lingering warning, it was no longer Jesus tied to that post. They were my hands tied above my head. It was my back laid bare.
I looked over my shoulder at the Roman soldier a few feet away – although I knew intuitively it was Satan dressed as a soldier. He held a stone and bone-studded whip in his right hand. I watched as He readied himself to tear into my back, my arms, my buttocks, and my legs.
I quickly turned my head and winced in anticipation of the blow.
But it never came.
Instead, I sensed a Presence move between us. The lash sliced the air and a visceral groan echoed through the courtyard. I heard Satan growl, "Get away from him. He belongs to me!"
The voice behind me responded quietly, but with palpable authority, "No, he doesn't. He belongs to me. I purchase him with my blood."
"Move away," the soldier hissed again. A heartbeat later the lash fell again, striking with a fury that sent chills across my skin. But the Presence moved closer, so close I felt the warmth of his body against mine. He wrapped his arms around me, shielding me from the whip that slashed at him again and again.
I heard each whip fall. I felt his body shudder with each blow. His blood splattered across the back of my neck and dripped from his shoulder onto mine.
Still tied to the post, I turned to see who it was protecting me. And when I saw Him, I could do nothing else but ask, "Lord, why are you doing this for me?"
He looked into my eyes and whispered, "Do you have to ask?"