We gather there, on that road to watch as Jesus stumbles down the road. Soldiers whip Him as He struggles to carry the wooden cross, and we cheer with every blow.
“Hit Him again!”
The mob mentality has fully overtaken us.
As one body, one voice, we follow Him down the road like a parade celebrating His coming death.
Jesus stumbles and falls down, unable to carry the cross anymore. We boo at Him, scorning His weakness. A soldier grabs a man from the crowd and thrusts him by the bloody One. They command that this man help Jesus carry His cross.
This outrages us.
“Don’t help Him!!”
“Make Him carry it Himself!”
“You’re no King!”
Together, the two men pick up the cross and continue their journey outside the city.
Finally, they arrive at that hill, the place where men are crucified.
Song: “Via Delorosa” by Sandy Patty
With heavy steps, they trudge up the hill and Jesus falls once more. The soldiers grab the man who had helped Jesus and push him meaninglessly down the hill.
The man looks down at his hands, covered in His blood, and he runs sobbing through the mob, anxious to go home. We cast dirty glares at him and quickly distance ourselves from him as he passes; we don’t want any of His blood on us.
I turn my eyes back to the hill and see Him weakly crawl onto the cross. This surprises me. He goes willingly? No soldier has to force Him to lay down to die?
Jesus stretches out His arms and legs so they are on the correct spot on the cross. The soldiers pick up the heavy nails and their mallet and begin to hammer them into His hands.
Every time mallet hits nail we cheer, throwing our hands up in excitement.
Each blow brings Him closer and closer to death, and the crowd itches with excitement.
Finally, the soldiers lift the cross and shove it into the ground. We lift our hands in victory, cheering as if our favorite team had just won the championship game.
Now all we can do was wait for Him to die. Oh, and hurl insults at Him, of course.
“You’re no King of the Jews!”
“If You’re really the Son of God, come down and save Yourself!!”
“You can’t, can You? That’s because You’re a LIAR!”
“You’re a blasphemer!”
“You saved others, but You cannot save Yourself!! You’re no Messiah!”
“You say You trust God, well, may God deliver You! …If He would have You!”
“Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe!”
Two thieves are crucified on either side of Jesus. No one cares enough to shout insults at them. We only want to emotionally hurt Him, the One who had claimed to be the Son of God.
You see, it all started last night.
Jesus and His followers were in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was betrayed by one of His “friends” and then He was taken to Herod and to Pilate for trials.
The religious leaders wanted Him dead because He threatened to destroy their precious religion and the power the loved so dearly. They stirred up this mob we’re a part of now. We shouted and screamed at Pilate as Jesus faced His trial.
“He claims to be the King of the Jews!”
“If you release Him, then you’re no friend of Caesar’s!”
For some reason, Pilate didn’t want to kill Jesus.
Clearly conflicted, he attempted to compromise with us. Every year at the Passover Pilate releases a criminal to show his mercy. This year he offered us Jesus or Barabbas. Barabbas is a famous thief and murderer, but we didn’t care. Anyone would be better than Jesus.
“Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!”
Pilate released Barabbas and the soldiers led Jesus away to prepare Him for His crucifixion.
Which brings us to today.
As we hurl insults at Jesus and the soldiers mock Him as well, Jesus looks up at the sky and says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The taunts continue:
“WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO??”
“You think you’re talking to God? Well, guess what? HE CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
“Just die already!”
One of the thieves crucified beside Him shouts at Him as well. “Are You not the Christ? Save yourself, and us!”
But the other thief rebuked him. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of death? We deserve this punishment, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
This thief then looks at Jesus. “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The soldiers mock Him. “If You are the King of the Jews, then save Yourself!”
The soldiers then turn and sit down in front of the cross. They gather Jesus’ garments and begin to cast lots to see who will keep them.
Jesus gasps for breath. He cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?“
Again, we scream at Him.
“He can’t hear You!”
“You got that right, God has forsaken You!”
Song: “Why” by Nicole Nordeman
Up close near the cross are a few people I recognize: Jesus’ mother and His aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdaline. Jesus’ follower John stands next to Jesus’ mother. All of them are weeping loudly.
Jesus looks down from the cross and says, “Woman, behold your son!” and then to John, “Behold, your mother.”
Then Jesus looks at the soldiers and gasps out, “I thirst!”
One of the soldiers jumps up from the gamboling and dips a sponge into sour wine. He attaches it to the end of his spear.
We scream out our complaint: “Don’t help Him!” But he offers it to Jesus anyway.
Jesus, struggling for breath, cries, “It is FINISHED!” And then He bows down His head and His body relaxes on the cross.
We cheer once more, jumping up and down and smiling happily.
Out of the blue, the ground below us begins to shake. “Earthquake!” someone yells. We abandon the dead Jesus there on the hill and turn and sprint to the city, dodging those who fall.
Today is traditionally called Good Friday.
Growing up, I always wondered why it was called that. If Jesus died on Good Friday, then why was it good? My mom explained to me that it’s called that because Jesus died for our sins, and that is a very good thing.
Each Easter season, there is a play in my town that portrays the life of Christ. I’ve participated in it since I was eight. When I was thirteen, I was old enough to be a part of the mob in the crucifixion scene.
I remember watching in horror the first time, looking up at the people around me who angrily shouted at the Jesus on the cross. One of my friends (who was also thirteen) and I realized that this was our part in the play now, and we needed to join in on the mob.
So we shouted and yelled at Jesus. We used big, dramatic hand motions. We followed the crowd in cheering when Jesus died. We sprinted off set as the earthquake happened.
Year after year followed, and I continued to participate in this play. Sometimes it was mundane for me. Routine. Yell at Jesus. Angry hand motions. Run off set.
But sometimes, something would stand out to me.
Like how the actor portraying Jesus crawled willingly onto the cross and it occurred to me that Jesus probably did that in real life too.
Or how someone near by me shouted “Dehumanize Him!” and I realized that’s exactly what the soldiers were doing. Jesus was dehumanized.
The thing that stands out to me the most, year after year is how I’m apart of the mob. I’m yelling these horrible things at Jesus. And it’s as if with every shout I’m re-nailing Him onto the cross.
Here’s the hard truth:
Jesus died for our sins (all of the wrong stuff we do). And in other words, our sins put Jesus on the cross. We’re why Jesus had to die.
He died willingly, but it’s still a bitter thought in my head. I wish it wasn’t true. I love Jesus! I don’t like the thought of being responsible for His death. But I am, and so are you.
Jesus died so we could be forgiven. He doesn’t hold our sins against us. Remember what He cried out from the cross?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus forgave the people who were there, personally killing Him. And He forgives us too.