The Shame of Christ

The Shame of Christ

The Shame of Christ.

“Answer me, Lord, for your grace is good; in your great mercy, turn to me. You know I am insulted, shamed and disgraced; before you stand all my foes. Insults have broken my heart to the point that I could die. I hoped that someone would show me compassion, but nobody did; and that there would be comforters, but I found none.”  (Psalm 69:16, 19-20; a messianic psalm of David that was surely fulfilled by Christ in His Passion).

Jesus understands the trauma of shame from the inside of the pain. He personally experienced it. He understands the shame of guilt, because He took on the sins of the world, absorbed them, and put them away. So He understands guilt and the shame that goes with it. He also understands undeserved shame. He was repeatedly, profoundly shamed throughout His Passion. He knows what it’s like to be treated shamefully, to be abused and demeaned.

The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus suffered “open shame” during His Passion: the shame of betrayal (Judas); the shame of abandonment (Disciples); the shame of rejection (the crowd choosing Barabbas); the shame of the religious authorities spitting on Him and beating Him with their fists; the shame of the soldiers stripping off His clothes and mocking Him with a royal robe and crown of thorns; the shame of the soldiers making fun of Him by kneeling and bowing before Him and ridiculing His kingship. And now the worst is yet to come. Crucifixion was meant to be especially shameful. Shame was the central point of this whole method of  execution. Jesus was unfairly executed with criminals. He was stripped naked and hung up high so everyone could see Him. While on the cross, bystanders hurled insults at Him, priests would jeer at Him, scribes and elders would mock Him unmercifully.

Psychiatrist and author Dr. Curt Thompson has a very helpful section in his outstanding book called The Soul of Shame. In this one section he discusses Hebrews 12:2, where its writer says that Christ “endured the cross, despising the shame.” Dr. Thompson discusses how Jesus laid out a pattern for us on how to deal with shame. Translations of the word ‘despise’ also use words like scorn and disregard. Jesus scorned the shame associated with the cross. He faced His shame head on, He was aware of its presence and didn’t pretend it wasn’t there. He acknowledged the shame and turned away, as if He didn’t think anything of it. He fearlessly confronted His shame while not being overrun by it. He turned attention away from the shame after addressing its reality, and turned towards His Father and what He was being asked to do. In His vulnerability, He scorned shame, He faced it down and overcame it by rejecting it, because of the love and acceptance He felt from the Father. Jesus disregarded the shame and pushed it into the margins in terms of its importance.

So Jesus knows all about the shame of abuse firsthand. He experienced it to the extreme. He understands it, and He offers His understanding to all who have suffered undeserved shame, all who have been stripped of their dignity as image-bearers of God. Christ is able to identify with all those suffering from shame, for the shamed suffer the very pains experienced by Jesus.

Christ carried our shame with His shame on the Cross. When we suffer shame, we join with Him during His Passion. We become partners with Him in what is called “the fellowship of His suffering.” (Phil. 3:10). When we nail our shame to the Cross of Christ, we become His partners as He pays the price for any disgrace or humiliation we might experience. We literally suffer with Christ when we are shamed, and Christ literally suffers with us as He identifies with our suffering and carries our shame. One needs never to suffer shame alone. Those who are shamed are in a powerful fellowship, are fellow participants with Christ. And since Christ absorbed that shame on the Cross and put that shame to death, our shame died when Christ died. And when Christ rose from the dead, that shame has been eternally conquered. When Jesus said “It is finished” on the Cross (John 19:30), our shame was finished and taken care of as well. And God has replaced that shame with the promise of being unashamedly welcomed into His family. “Jesus, the Holy One, makes us holy. And as sons and daughters we now belong to His same Father, so He is not ashamed or embarrassed to introduce us as His brothers and sisters!” (Heb. 2:11).

Once our shame has run its course through Christ, the process of healing can take place. Christ continues to take our shame through His intercession at the right hand of the Father. Christ represents humanity before God, Christ identifies with us and intercedes for us at the throne of grace. Our shame is absorbed into the Godhead and dissolved. God continues to do His part as we tend to the healing that needs to be experienced through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will continue to heal us, renew us, and restore us as we offer our shame to the Lord. On the one hand, the Cross of Christ took care of our shame for all time. On the other hand, when shame raises its ugly head in our lives, Christ continues to carry our burdens and continue the fellowship of His suffering.