Day Forty-Five of Lent
April 19, 2019
By MB Discipleship
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. – John 19:16-18
Jesus experienced an unjust death.
It’s easy to focus on atonement, on what early Christians wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to understand the purpose and power of Jesus’ death. Those are good things to explore and think about. But historians who aren’t really religious know that a man named Jesus lived and, caught between Herod and Pilate, died having committed no crime. A violent criminal was released – Barabbas. In terms of justice, it was a disaster. Pilate’s wife had been tormented by nightmares and tried to warn him that Jesus was innocent.
She was right. Why, it could be asked, would God allow her to be tormented by knowledge that would do no good when she shared it? But in the Eastern Orthodox church, she is honored as a saint: early church tradition passed on the story that she converted and became a follower of Christ.
It’s hard to grapple with how, in his very injustice and death, Christ continued to draw people to God. It’s good to reflect on the crucifixion and what it means for us, that Christ died for the redemption of the world. Before we think about the difference it makes for us, look at the difference it made for people who witnessed it: Pilate’s wife, Procula; the centurion overseeing the executions who proclaimed, “truly this was the Son of God,” the petty criminal dying on a cross a few feet away from Jesus. In watching Jesus suffering, in bearing witness to the death of Jesus, people were drawn to God.
Through the Holy Spirit, Christ beckons to his followers to allow suffering, or injustice, or pain, to be a prism through which others may witness the beauty and love of God. Jesus’ crucifixion shows us what it looks like to allow our lives to be living illustrations of self-giving love. Letting go of what is fair, letting go of what is earned, letting go of strength or health or ability, we are free to see the people around us who see how we choose to let go and to love. The circumstances in which we find ourselves may pull us into contact with people we wouldn’t otherwise encounter; when they encounter us, they are able to encounter Jesus, if we have let go of outcomes and the measurement of our own pain, and if we see them and, knowing who we are and to whom we belong, we are able freely to serve them and love them.
*Without denying or minimizing the challenges you face, are you able to see them as arenas to speak, behave, and love as Jesus did?