Beauty and the Beast: “I Will Bear Your Dark Side” from Max Lucado
Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite stories. I have plush characters from the Disney movie on my bed, teeshirts, the soundtrack, and a dream to see it on Broadway. It’s an amazing love story, rivaled by arguably only one, at least in my opinion: The Story of Easter. But never, not until today, have I ever put them together.
In Max Lucado’s He Chose the Nails, there is an entire chapter dedicated to this powerful parallel. Easter took on a new meaning for me, a more poignant one, and so did the movie. Maybe this is why I have always loved the story: I could relate. Jesus saw the beauty in our beastliness.
I couldn’t retell it better than Max wrote it the first time. So I’m not even going to try.
What would have happened to the Beast if the Beauty hadn’t appeared?
You know the story. There was a time when his face was handsome and his palace pleasant. But that was before the curse, before the shadows fell on the castle of the prince, before the shadows fell on the heart of the prince. And when the darkness fell, he hid. Secluded in his castle, he was left with glistening snout and curly tusks and a bad mood.
But all that changed when the girl came. I wonder, what would have happened to the Beast if the Beauty hadn’t appeared?
Better yet, what would have happened if she hadn’t cared? Who would have blamed her if she hadn’t? He was such a … well, such a beast. Hairy. Drooling. Roaring. Defying. And she was such a beauty. Stunningly gorgeous. Contagiously kind. If ever two people lived up to their names, didn’t the Beauty and the Beast? Who would have blamed her if she hadn’t cared? But she did care.
And because the Beauty loved the Beast, the Beast became more beautiful himself.
The story’s familiar, not just because it’s a fairy tale. It’s familiar because it reminds us of ourselves. There is a beast within each of us.
It wasn’t always so. There was a time when humanity’s face was beautiful and the palace pleasant. But that was before the curse, before the shadow fell across the garden of Adam, before the shadow fell across the heart of Adam. And ever since the curse, we’ve been different. Beastly. Ugly. Defiant. Angry. We do things we know we shouldn’t do and wonder why we did them…
The apostle Paul had similar struggles. “I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Ever felt like saying those words?
If so, you’re in good company. Paul isn’t the only person in the Bible who wrestled the beast within… King Saul chasing young David with a spear. Shechem raping Dinah. Dinah’s brothers (the sons of Jacob) murdering Shechem and his friends. Lot selling out to Sodom and then getting out of Sodom. Herod murdering Bethlehem toddlers. Another Herod murdering Jesus’ cousin. If the Bible is called the Good Book, it’s not because its people are. Blood runs as freely through the stories as the ink through the quills that penned them. But the evil of the beast was never so raw as on the day Christ died.
The disciples were first fast asleep, then fast afoot. Herod wanted a show.
Pilate wanted out.
And the soldiers? They wanted blood.
So they scourged Jesus. The legionnaire’s whip consisted of leather straps with lead balls on each end. His goal was singular: Beat the accused within an inch of his death and then stop. Thirty-nine lashes were allowed but seldom needed. A centurion monitored the prisoner’s status. No doubt Jesus was near death when his hands were untied and he slumped to the ground.
The whipping was the first deed of the soldiers.
The crucifixion was the third… Though his back was ribboned with wounds, the soldiers loaded the crossbeam on Jesus’ shoulders and marched him to the Place of a Skull and executed him.
We don’t fault the soldiers for these two actions. After all, they were just following orders. But what’s hard to understand is what they did in between. Here is Matthew’s description:
Jesus was beaten with whips and handed over to the soldiers to be crucified. The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s palace, and they all gathered around him. They took off his clothes and put a red robe on him. Using thorny branches, they made a crown, put it on his head, and put a stick in his right hand. Then the soldiers bowed before Jesus and made fun of him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Jesus. Then they took his stick and began to beat him on the head. After they finished, the soldiers took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. (Matt. 27:26–31)
The soldiers’ assignment was simple: Take the Nazarene to the hill and kill him. But they had another idea. They wanted to have some fun first. Strong, rested, armed soldiers encircled an exhausted, nearly dead, Galilean carpenter and beat up on him. The scourging was commanded. The crucifixion was ordered. But who would draw pleasure out of spitting on a half-dead man?
Spitting isn’t intended to hurt the body—it can’t. Spitting is intended to degrade the soul, and it does. What were the soldiers doing? Were they not elevating themselves at the expense of another? They felt big by making Christ look small.
Ever done that? Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance? Have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good?
That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. “I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matt. 25:40 nlt). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus…
Believe me, I don’t like to say it. But we must face the fact that there is something beastly within each and every one of us. Something beastly that makes us do things that surprise even us. Haven’t you surprised yourself? Haven’t you reflected on an act and wondered, “What got into me?”
The Bible has a three-letter answer for that question: S-I-N. There is something bad—beastly—within each of us. We are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3 nasb). It is not that we can’t do good. We do. It’s just that we can’t keep from doing bad. In theological terms, we are “totally depraved.” Though made in God’s image, we have fallen. We’re corrupt at the core. The very center of our being is selfish and perverse. David said, “I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5 nlt). Could any of us say any less? Each one of us was born with a tendency to sin. Depravity is a universal condition. Scripture says it plainly:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. (Isa. 53:6 nkjv)
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9 niv)
There is none righteous, no, not one…. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:10, 23 nkjv)
Some would disagree with such strong words. They look around and say, “Compared to everyone else, I’m a decent person.” You know, a pig might say something similar. He might look at his trough partners and announce, “I’m just as clean as everyone else.” Compared to humans, however, that pig needs help. Compared to God, we humans need the same. The standard for sinlessness isn’t found at the pig troughs of earth but at the throne of heaven. God, himself, is the standard.
We are beasts… Our deeds are ugly. Our actions are harsh. We don’t do what we want to do, we don’t like what we do, and what’s worse—yes, there is something worse—we can’t change.
We try, oh, how we try. But “Can a leopard change his spots? In the same way, Jerusalem, you cannot change and do good, because you are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer. 13:23). The apostle agreed with the prophet: “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot” (Rom. 8:7 nrsv, emphasis mine)…
Then we have a problem: We are sinners, and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23 niv).
We have a problem: We are not holy, and “anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
We have a problem: We are evil, and “evil people are paid with punishment” (Prov. 10:16).
What can we do?
Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the cross.
Through the prophet he said, “I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isa. 50:6 niv). Mingled with his blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.
God could have deemed otherwise. In God’s plan, Jesus was offered wine for his throat, so why not a towel for his face? Simon carried the cross of Jesus, but he didn’t mop the cheek of Jesus. Angels were a prayer away. Couldn’t they have taken the spittle away?
They could have, but Jesus never commanded them to. For some reason, the One who chose the nails also chose the saliva. Along with the spear and the sponge of man, he bore the spit of man. Why? Could it be that he sees the beauty within the beast?
But here the correlation with Beauty and the Beast ends. In the fable, the beauty kisses the beast. In the Bible, the Beauty does much more. He becomes the beast so the beast can become the beauty. Jesus changes places with us. We, like Adam, were under a curse, but Jesus “changed places with us and put himself under that curse” (Gal. 3:13).
What if the Beauty had not come? What if the Beauty had not cared? Then we would have remained a beast. But the Beauty did come, and the Beauty did care.
The sinless One took on the face of a sinner so that we sinners could take on the face of a saint.