“Paul’s overriding interest is not in evil men who have done a wicked thing but in a good God who has done a gracious thing.”—Gerard S. Sloyan, The Crucifixion of Jesus: History, Myth, Faith
Like many, I was enthusiastic about Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ when it premiered in 2004. My enthusiasm waned considerably about halfway through. I wasn’t turned off because of my weak stomach; I was dismayed at its emphasis. It’s my conviction that it wasn’t the brutality of the Crucifixion that made it significant, but rather the identity of the one crucified. The tragedy is that the creator would allow himself to be humiliated, abused, and ultimately murdered at the hands of his creatures.
The one who would soon lay claim to all authority on heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) was betrayed with a gesture of familiarity and intimacy (Luke 22:47–53). Those who had sworn their allegiance fled and denied him (Matt. 26:69–75). The mouth that had summed up the Law and the prophets with the admonition to treat others the way you desire to be treated (Matt. 7:12) was silent as Jesus was beaten and mocked.
A prefect of Rome apathetically dismissed the supreme sovereign of the universe (Matt. 27:24). The world’s only true innocent was scourged and forced to carry the device for his own execution through town. The feet that had walked upon the raging sea, the hands that had only recently healed the sick and raised the dead, were nailed to a rough piece of wood. Christ, who deserved to be elevated, was raised upon a cruel cross. And during history’s most unforgivable act, Jesus exemplified all his teaching in the prayer, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Good Friday, the most tragically beautifully date on the Christian calendar, is set aside to remember the passion of our Lord. It’s tragic for what the creator would suffer at the hands of the creature, and it’s beautiful for the work that was done on that dreadful day. As the writer of Hebrews put it, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” It doesn’t really matter who was ultimately responsible for the Crucifixion. On this day we remember that we were all culpable—and are all beneficiaries.
And because of the humiliation endured that day, the head that wore a crown of thorns is now crowned with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:9), and any crown I receive will be laid at his nail-scarred feet.
Thank you, Jesus.
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