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I was There – A Meditation on the Crucifixion of Our Lord

April 2, 2012

“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” asks the spiritual. As I reflect on the people who surrounded Jesus this Holy Week, I see myself in them, and am moved to answer “Yes” to this question.

First, the leaders … who saw the crowds following Jesus and feared the loss of their privileged status, who were so sure they were right that they could even commit murder and justify it as God’s will.

Do I resent the success and happiness of others? Do I drag my feet in helping transform the distribution of the world’s resources or the movement to greater care for the environment out of fear of losing my privileged position? Do I justify myself rather than accept criticism?

Sins like these placed Jesus on the Cross. So Jesus died for my sins. Yes, I was there.

Next, Judas … who used his closeness with Jesus as a weapon, and handed Jesus over to those he knew sought his death, who decided it was time to jump ship, and used his relationship with Jesus to get what he could – 30 pieces of silver – out of the deal, and who closed his heart to Jesus’ love, refusing to turn back from his decision even to the last in Gethsemane, when Jesus called him “Friend,” and asked why he had come.

Do I betray a position of trust, using my closeness to the person as a weapon? Do I evaluate the worth of friendships by what I can get out of them? Do I close my heart to those who love me, and resist turning from that which I know to be hurting them?

Sins like these placed Jesus on the Cross. So Jesus died for my sins. Yes, I was there.

Then, Peter … who told Jesus he would stand by him even to the point of death, but out of fear denied him when Jesus’ hour of need arrived.

Do I make promises I don’t keep? Do I promise to always be there – to sacrifice myself for those I love – and then let them down when I have to live my words? Do I allow fear to inhibit my love?

Sins like these placed Jesus on the Cross. So Jesus died for my sins. Yes, I was there.

Then, Pilate … who delivered a man he believed to be innocent over to death rather than get into personal difficulty with the crowd and, especially, Caesar, who to save his own skin, considered Jesus expendable, who tried to take the easy way out and avoid his moral responsibility to act.

Do I allow what I do to be influenced not only by what I believe to be right, but also by what will I believe will be in my best interests? Do I consider my well-being more important than another’s? Do I try to wash my hands of injustice in the world,  pretending it isn’t my responsibility to actively act against it?

Sins like these placed Jesus on the Cross. So Jesus died for my sins. Yes, I was there.

Lastly, the crowd … who were frustrated and bitter over having once again, it seemed, had their hopes of deliverance from the Romans crushed, who were angry at Jesus; who had invited them to put their hope and trust in him, now seemingly having been exposed as a fraud, and so lash out to demand his death, changing their cries for deliverance, “Hosanna,” on Palm Sunday, to cries of “Crucify” on Good Friday; who allowed their anger to move them to choose the way of violence and hate, rather than the way of peace and love.

Do I allow my disappointment, my feeling even of betrayal at the hands of loved ones, to cause me to lash out in anger at them? Do I kill people in my mind with the hatred in my heart? Do my actions and thoughts testify to my often choosing the way of violence and hate over the way of peace and love?

Sins like these placed Jesus on the Cross. So Jesus died for my sins. Yes, I was there.

But, while it is true that these sins put Jesus on the Cross, it is true at the deepest level that it was not these that put him on the Cross – for Jesus himself said he could have been delivered at any time by legions of angels had he chose. No, it was Jesus’ love that put him on the Cross. Jesus said he came to give his life as a ransom for many – for all who have died in sin and need his new life within them. And so there’s another reason I was there when Jesus was crucified as well. I was there, because I, with my sins, was nailed to the Cross along with Jesus. Jesus died for my sins. Yes, I was there. Alleluia!

(This is the Palm Sunday Mediation from our Services on April 1. The image at the top of this posting is of the 1886-1894 painting “What Our Saviour Saw from the Cross” by James Tissot. The video embedded below is of Mahalia Jackson singing the first verse of “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”)

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