part one of two
What happened? What was going on? Did he take a wrong turn? Go left instead of right at the fork? Did he get lost on the detour? How did he get here? Bruised, dirty and bloody in this dark, cold, lonely hell of a place!
Less than a week ago he arrived in the city to cheering crowds welcoming him. They looked to him to save them from corrupt politicians. The taxes on top of taxes that kept them hungry, needy, low on the economic scale. The drudgery of life.
They looked to this man to lead them out of the authority and politics of greedy, ruthless tyrants. To lead them out of their hopeless lives. To lead them to purpose. To life worth living. To hope.
They placed their hope in him.
But how could they hope now? When he was barely alive. Bruised. Dirty. Bloody. If that was the end of his journey, why would they follow him? What hope was there in him?
It was common knowledge that he was a trouble-maker.
The religious leaders were not pleased with him, to say the least. He didn’t follow all their rules.
They were religious leaders! They were to be respected, honoured, followed! Who did he think he was to say they’d gone too far away from God’s law by adding their own rules to God’s? Who was he to criticize them? To tell them they were wrong? How dare he!
Besides, the people were too interested in this man. They could feel the grip on their power and prestige slipping.
On the other hand, the people were intrigued by this man. Many followed him, clinging to his every word. It was a known fact that he helped people. He even healed people. Blind. Lame. Lepers. And more. Believe it or not, I heard stories of him driving demons out of people! Yes, really! There was irrefutable evidence!
Then there was that time his friend, Lazarus, died. When the man finally got to the town, he mourned for his friend. Then he called to Lazarus—who had been in the tomb for several days. The man was so full of grief… But the inexplicable happened. Lazarus came out of the tomb! Alive!
He was dead! The man called to him. And now he was alive!
It didn’t seem to matter to him who you were. He crossed all the socioeconomic lines. It was well known that he went to the house of a notorious thief of a tax collector, to share a meal! Even worse, according to social norms, he sat down to dinner with prostitutes and others from the fringes—the dregs of society. And yet, he had followers among the rich and revered as well!
But, who could ignore him?
It was in his eyes, you see. Love. Acceptance. Compassion. Kindness. And a knowing, somehow. Like he could see right into you. That he knew every thing about you. Every bad deed, evil thought. Every selfish, unloving cell in your entire body.
And yet… love shone from him. It reached right into your cold, hard being and warmed you, softened you. But these words don’t do it justice. Don’t do him justice.
It was rumoured that he claimed to be God! Can you imagine! Such sacrilege! God and man at the same time? Who would dare say such a thing? He was asking to suffer for saying such a thing.
There was this one time he was in his hometown. As usual, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He stood up to read. The scroll of Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll to a particular passage. This is what he read.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Isaiah 4: 18, 19 (English Standard Version)
He returned the scroll and sat down.
No explanation. No additional comments. I can’t help but think he was trying to tell us something. Could it be that he was the one Isaiah was talking about? The One to come?
And, then, as all eyes were fixed on him, he said,
“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Shouting brings me back to the present. I look around at the people. Some crying. Some standing as if in shock. Others jeering. Some passing by. Most in a degree of fear, thankful they are on the ground and not “up there”.
Some soldiers are dividing up the criminal’s clothes and shouting insults at the man.
I look up. The man who arrived to cheers less than a week ago is almost unrecognizable. He has been beaten so badly. The mock crown shoved down on his head is made of thorns. Blood trickles down his face. His body is stretched and held by nails in his hands and his feet. It’s too painful to watch.
Near the cross stand a few people together. The older woman is extremely distraught. I notice the man on the cross. With great effort he looks right at them and says something. A younger man stood beside the woman puts his arm around her shoulders.
I see the man lift up his head and say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Forgive them? What about shouts of hate? Of revenge? Where are the arguments for innocence? I gaze at the man. Then time stands still—he looks into my eyes!
Love. Acceptance. Compassion. Kindness. And a knowing, somehow. Like he can see right into me. That he knows every thing about me. Every bad deed, evil thought. Every selfish, unloving cell in my being. And yet… love shines from him. It reaches right into my cold, hard being and warms me, softens me.
And in this moment, warm with his love, I hold on to a thin, frayed, blood-stained strand of feeble hope.
Slowly he looks up. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
His body slumps.
It is finished…..
Let’s journey together…