In this Easter season, I find myself wondering about the people who knew or knew of Jesus and lived when He walked among them. I wonder what that was like. And I wonder where I would have been if I had been there.
Maybe I’m here, in this crowd. Come with me and see.
I am a part of the infinite mass of people shouting “Crucify Him!” I’m in this huge crowd, and I know along with everyone else that the highly esteemed religious leaders have made it abundantly clear that Jesus deserves to be punished. I’m in. All the way. Of course, I do not realize that these arrogant leaders want to stop what Jesus is doing because they fear losing control of their perfectly ruled, perfectly ordered society. Jesus is really rocking the boat, and they don’t like it. But I don’t stop to consider or question. Everyone around me is loudly proclaiming the injustice of what He has done. I am one of them. I am involved in this angry mob in every way. I am caught up in the frenzy. Look – there I am. I find myself nodding my head, clapping my hands, shaking my fists, shouting right along with them. Why? Because this Jesus…He claims to be the Son of God!! That’s crazy!! That’s just…wrong!! And He speaks so strangely, and He says things that make absolutely no sense. Oh, and it’s so cool to be a part of the crowd, right?? The adrenaline rush. The false but strong sense of belonging. The feeling of power over another who has done…nothing. But He is so different, and He is not explainable. He is the voice of change. I am fearful of change, just like the religious leaders. I don’t take the time to seriously consider that maybe what He says is true. I don’t consider that maybe He is in fact the Son of God. I don’t yet know He is here to save me, at all cost. All cost.
I don’t see the look of compassion in His tortured eyes. I don’t see the love in His tortured heart. I don’t understand that He knows the nightmare that is about to begin, yet He does nothing to stop it. He knows that He was born to die. And not just to die, but to die an incredibly violent and painful death. A way of dying so horrible that even today with all the medical knowledge we have about what crucifixion did physically, we can’t begin to imagine the depth of pain and agony that He went through for us. And that was just the physical part. The emotional and spiritual torture takes what He did for us to a level never before, and never again, attained.
I used to wonder how the people could have chosen Jesus to be crucified. And not only that, they chose Barabbas, a known murderer, to be freed over Jesus, who no one could find fault with. How could they do that? Both Herod and Pilate wanted to let Him go. Pilate thought that the usual practice of letting one prisoner go free for the Passover observance would be a sure strategy to free Jesus. It was so obvious who should be freed. But the people shocked Pilate, with one voice, in unity, shouting as loud as they could. And Pilate washed his hands, as though that would free him of responsibility. How could the people have done this? How could they sentence someone to die who was completely innocent, who was…God?
If I had lived 2,000 years ago as a Jew, seeing Jesus, hearing Him speak, watching Him perform miracles, what would my reaction have been? I like to think I would have been among those who followed Him. Perhaps I was in with the group of the women who went where He went and ministered to His needs and the needs of the disciples. That’s a nice thought. Warm fuzzies here. How must it have felt to be with Jesus, a silent listener just soaking it all in like a sponge as He visited and taught and just hung out with the disciples. How wonderful would that have been? But if I am honest, I must say that is wishful thinking. Could that have been me? Sure. But given my personality and my love for the routine and predictable, I don’t know.
I could also have easily have been among those Jews who whispered among themselves as He walked by. The ones who smiled at Him when He made eye contact, but then turned to whisper when He walked past. Whispers about how He must be a liar, He must be using the power of demons to perform miracles. He can’t be who He says He is. For that to be true defies all that I have ever heard and all that I have been taught. He is the opposite of all the rules, traditions, and rituals of my culture. He wants us to abandon so much of the belief system we have always known and accept a completely new reality. He is not predictable, not routine, not structured. He is here just like I am, yet He is so not like me, not like anyone. He must be wrong. Yes, I could have fit right in taking that side.
Of course here and now I know that He wasn’t wrong at all. He was so right, perfectly right. And He wasn’t demon possessed or crazy. He stood firm against the fierce and intense flow of insanity as the only sane one. The Anointed One, the real and true Messiah. The Savior.
We have what those who lived then don’t have. We have the Bible that shares His life and death and resurrection. We know what happened to Him and we know why. We know the story. But if we aren’t careful, “we know the story” can become “we know the drill”.
Easter Sunday services. A celebration of what Jesus did for us. But if we aren’t proactive we can easily miss it – present physically, but not mentally or spiritually. We are busy with our busy lives. We can get lost in those Easter tradition details and forget the significance. We allow our minds to just keep on going like the Energizer Bunny. Jesus-was-crucified-and-died-and-rose-again-I-hope-it-doesn’t-rain-during-the-Easter-egg-hunt-but-it-did-rain-yesterday-I-hope-it’s-not-muddy-will-everybody-be-on-time-this-year-will-Johnny’s-girlfriend-pick-a-fight-again-in-front-of-everyone…Our minds wander, and our hearts wander instead of focusing on what really matters.
This year, join me in making a choice. I choose to focus on Him. I choose to think through every single detail of His incredible suffering and death. I choose to experience afresh the true story of God’s elaborate plan to save me. I choose to ponder the fact that Jesus was left utterly alone in agony because God could not look upon the sin state of the world that Jesus was embracing, bearing, and pulling up from the depths of evil and depravity and despair.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
I choose humble and all encompassing gratitude to Him for my very life. I choose, because He chose.