A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to start volunteering at a place in my neighborhood called CEPIA.
“CEPIA stands for Culture, Education and Psychology for Infants and Adolescents and is a Costa Rican non-profit organization that seeks to promote culture, health, sports and education for children and teenagers and their families from poor backgrounds in the communities of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.”
CEPIA isn’t a Christian organization, but it is definitely the place where Jesus would hang out.
They were having a summer camp for kids and needed more volunteers. Camp? Kids? Sign me up! I showed up to the meeting, they asked me what I wanted to do. “Well art sounds fun.” I said, thinking that I would be just another adult body in the room, while someone who is fluent in spanish would lead the group.
So I show up the next morning for camp. “Ashley, the art teacher isn’t coming. So you get to choose what craft you want to do today!”
Oh. What? Have I mentioned this theme in my life that keeps showing up? I was overwhelmed and under qualified like woahhhh.
I am not a very creative and artsy person. My spanish is not the best. But I am good with kids sometimes, so I had that going for me.
I was panicking for a second. Then prayed, pulled myself together, and searched online for easy crafts that hopefully wouldn’t end in a “Pinterest fail.”
Camp lasted for two weeks. Each day I had 3 different groups, of different ages, come into the art room. I’m not going to lie, it was chaotic! Art class isn’t offered in public schools here in Costa Rica. Therefore, kids don’t know how to use scissors very well, or mix paint colors, or use glitter without dumping the entire can out.
But throughout the week, I got to watch them discover the freedom in expressing themselves. I had this opportunity to just let kids be kids; be messy, be loud, splatter paint on their clothes.
I’m not exaggerating when I say the room was covered in paint, glitter, glue, and art projects. I stayed after for 2 hours scrubbing paint off the tables, chairs, and floors. It was exhausting. Would I do it again? In a heart beat! In fact, I did…we repeated the process every day! The smiles on the kids’ faces, the pride they had in their work, the laughter that filled the air when I started using my fingers to paint balloons (we were running low on supplies! haha)….the freedom and joy they found through expressing themselves, and the relationships I was able to build with these kids. They were worth the mess.
You know what else is messy? The cross. A lot of times we see the cross on a beautiful necklace, or hanging nicely behind the pastor during a sermon. It’s so clean, neat, put together nicely.
But y’all. Have you read what actually happened on that cross? It’s not pretty.
If you haven’t read the crucifixion of Christ in the Bible, I highly suggest you go read it. You will find it in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 22-23, John 19.
I found this great article, “A Physician’s View of the Crucifixion of Jesus”. The author does a great job explaining just how messy the crucifixion was. He brings it to life with a detailed description of what was actually happening to Jesus Christ on that cross.
I’ll highlight some parts for you. It’s a little long, but stick with me.
After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was next brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest; it is here that the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphus. The palace guards then blind-folded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by, spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face.
In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate…
It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion… Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head…The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs…
At first the thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.
…Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body.
…Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped the wounds once more begin to bleed…
In spite of His efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious blood loss, is too much. He stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tries to rise, but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to get on with the crucifixion, selects a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus follows, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock, until the 650 yard journey from the fortress Antonia to Golgotha is finally completed…He drives a heavy, square, wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms to tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum is then lifted in place at the top of the stipes and the titulus reading, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is nailed in place.
The left foot is now pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The Victim is now crucified. As He slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain — the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves.
As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet. At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.
Jesus experienced hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain where tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber…
…One remembers again the 22nd Psalm, the 14th verse: “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”…
It is now almost over. The loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level; the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissue; the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues send their flood of stimuli to the brain…
The body of Jesus is now in extremes, and He can feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brings out His sixth words, possibly little more than a tortured whisper, “It is finished.” His mission of atonement has completed…
Wow. The cross was MESSY. The ultimate mess. But it had a purpose. That mess happened so you could experience freedom. So your sins could be paid for. So the blood of the lamb could cover you in order that you may have a relationship with the God who created you. It’s messy. It’s ugly. It’s painful. But it’s redemptive. It’s triumphant. It’s victorious. The God of the universe looks at you and says you are worthy of this mess.
God loves you so much that he sent his Son, to die a messy death on a cross. To shed his blood for your sins. So that you may have a relationship with the Father. So that you may experience eternal life and life to the full.
The reality of the crucifixion of Christ is this: You are worth it.
Galatians 6:14 – May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Colossians 2:13-15 – When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 1:20 – …and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Hebrews 12:2-3 – fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Attention friends! CEPIA is in need of art supplies! From canvas to construction paper, markers and crayons, and everything in between! If you would like to donate art supplies or school supplies, please contact me! The Latimers are in Michigan and would gladly bring those back to Costa Rica for the students at CEPIA!
For more information on CEPIA, visit their website: