|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on April 19, 2019 at 8:55 AM|
The Crucifixion of Jesus
As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
The Death of Jesus
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Whenever I talk with my students about Holy Week, we tend to talk about the disciples- about Judas and Peter and the rest and how they acted. Because we understand weakness. We understand failure and evil and fear. We understand running away and protecting ourselves. But love? A love so powerful that it can walk right into death for the sake of ungrateful people? That is a love that we cannot explain. That as often as we tell the story, still does not make sense to us.
We cannot understand his unwavering obedience to all that the Father called him to in this world. We cannot make sense of a love that loves so desperately that it will look us deserters in the eye and still love us. Without anger. Without derision. Without spite. With nothing but utter love. Even as it is in agony. It’s love that suffers abandonment and physical pain beyond our comprehension and still, still looks on us with a love deep enough to heal us.
It is a love that is too good for us. A love that makes us look at the cross with horror and gratitude when we see the lengths that this love goes to for our sake.
Jesus acts his love on us- love for all of us who don’t know how to love- so that we might have a chance to be transformed. So that we might glimpse the glory of God so clearly in his body on the cross that we might know what love God has for us. And for our brothers and sisters. And to know what love and glory and forgiveness and joy and justice is possible in our world.
The cross breaks the power of all that distorts the image of God in us. Our betrayal and denial and fear are no match for the face of love on the cross. The ugliness in our world and in our own lives does not get to be the last word. Jesus stares down all that we have done wrong, all we have been too cowardly to do, and all the evil that simply overwhelms us in order to strip those things of their power. In order to make us whole again in his love. So that we might have a different future and a different story.
And that means that wherever we would have been in the story- Judas the betrayer or Peter the denier or one of the other disciples who deserted him- Jesus would always be on the cross. For us. For all that is broken and in pain in our world. Jesus would always be on the cross because we could not be.
It is not right. It does not make sense. But it is holy. It is love. It is God. And it is our hope.