This is looking to be the first 3/4ths of my message tomorrow. -JB
Back when I was a kid I used to hate the ‘Holy Week’. The way I understood it, we were given a break from class to go to mass more. One mass on Thursday, one hardcore mass on Friday followed by the stations of the cross, and if Dad or Mom was a speaker to elaborate on one of the so-called Seven Last Words of Christ, then we would spend pretty much the whole day in church, in a time when video games and playgrounds were my life.
You’d have a break from all the mass on Saturday, but since my parents didn’t spring for cable until I was in college, we were stuck with watching the 10 Commandments on ABS-CBN… AND GMA. Yeah, they didn’t care if they were blasting the same blasted movie… it was all in observance of Holy Week.
Then came Easter Sunday, which was pretty much yet another mass.. with colored, half-boiled eggs by the bulk. This was a savory end to the season.
Of course, over the years, God’s grace has taught me to see beyond all this mass and to appreciate it for what it is – because if we don’t celebrate a risen savior, we join the rest of the world in worshiping a dead idol. And today, I love Easter. Or Resurrection Sunday. Whatever you want to call it.
Unfortunately, that’s NEXT Sunday. No, the preacher on Palm Sunday has the morbid privilege of talking from what transpires before Christ’s glorious triumph over sin, death, and the grave.
And that preacher happens to be me.
The act of scourging and crucifixion was reserved for the most dastardly of criminals. As far as I know, people proven guilty of treason were just some of these people; crucifixion guaranteed that the victim’s death was delayed for the longest period of time, his final moments in the greatest amount of pain and humiliation.
You could imagine how other people would beg for death, much so when they are possibly being pelted and ridiculed while bloodied and beaten, nailed to a filthy wooden cross. But most, if not all men crucified, let out screams of pain and anguish in the final moments of their pathetic lives.
He was dragged around from one place to another, and wherever He went, they hurt Him in some way or form. The Sanhedrin had their way with Him, beating him, ripping his beard out, spitting on Him, mocking Him. The Roman Legion, experts in warfare and pain, scourged Him, ridiculed Him as a false ‘King of the Jews’, and proceeded to nail Him to the cross.
Yet there were no verses saying how He cried, or yelled, or screamed in pain. Christ did not complain. He could have. But the fact is… going back to the so-called Seven Last Words, He did not speak ill of those causing Him great pain, but instead, said, ‘Father, forgive them.’ (Luke 23:34)
For a moment, put yourself in Pilate’s shoes. You’ve just been given an literal hot potato to handle. A Man is brought before you in the name of hate so blind that the mob obviously contradicts itself. It’s a hate so intense as it is blind, for it does not demand for the Man to be put to death, but to be crucified. You so resist the idea of crucifying someone who doesn’t deserve it, that you are willing to have the man scourged instead, subjecting him to a pain so tremendous but at least less than the cross, in hopes that the mob would be satisfied.
But this fails. Miserably. The mob not only chooses to live with a man who they know has done heinous crimes, but they cry out so much more for the scourged, humiliated man to be nailed to a cross… even going as far as saying that His innocent blood would not only be on their hands, but on their children’s, and their children’s children… subjecting even generations to come to the intense, blind hatred that they had for this Man.
Put yourself in Pilate’s shoes. The day before you were probably thinking of taking a vacation to God knows where, and now you had this mess happening. And to top it off, you have the Man himself, bleeding, pathetic, a crown of thorns on His head, telling you that His kingdom is ‘not of this world’. That just has to throw you off somehow.
You yield to the mob. But they wanted more. They wanted you to place a sign above His head on the cross, saying that He said that He was the King of the Jews. But that was the last straw. You make the subtle ‘mistake’ of writing, ‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS’. (John 19:20-22)
Now there may have been more details as to what transpired, involving Pilate, but do continue to imagine being in his shoes, and imagine, you’ve just met someone hated so much, and you’ve heard Him talking nonsense about being part of an alien kingdom… continue to dwell in the emotions you would have been feeling in all this, and imagine, word comes to you, that in all this, He never complained, no, one of the few things He says is, ‘Father, forgive them…’
I would have been floored. I would have just broke down right then and there. Thoughts that could have gone through my mind? I just crucified an innocent man. How could a man be so hated that they would do absolutely anything not just to kill him, but to humiliate Him literally to no end? And how, in the name of all the gods I may have believed in at the time, would He not be angry? How could He not just be not angry, but calm, and ASKING FOR THEIR FORGIVENESS!?
Brothers and sisters, this is the grace of God. The grace of God appeared unto man, and dwelt among us… and when His physical body was brought to its end by the most terrible and horrific way, the grace of God spoke out still, in love, for the forgiveness of those who sought Him erased.