View From The Cross
Living in a contentious culture, fraught with different worldviews, lifestyles, politics, and ideological fever it is easy to become cynical. We argue and debate on issues that we are passionate about. We frustrate one another with differing ideas, and try to persuade others of their mistaken notions and beliefs. We praise those who we agree with and decry those who don’t. However, it is good once in a while to stop and take a breath, stand back, and look at life from a different perspective.
The day was overcast and the clouds threatened to soak the ground with the tears of heaven. Weather wasn’t going to dissuade the events of the day, and the participants were many. The crowd gathered to see the spectacle, the loudest clamoring for death, while in the shadows were the fearful, holding to the fringes to avoid being caught up by mob.
The powerful, the elite, the ruling class differed on their opinion of the man standing before Pilate. He was a religious zealot, someone who threatened their standing before the government and the mob. Did they really hate the man or what he stood for? Was there really a difference? It didn’t matter in the end because they wouldn’t let him stand in their way. They used every opportunity to denigrate him before his followers, but the more they tried the more this man grew in popularity.
For this reason they turned to the political arena. The man said he was building a kingdom, and the Romans wouldn’t let that stand. The paranoid government would root out any attempt to usurp their rule. Pilate, however, wasn’t cooperating. This typically ruthless bureaucrat was faltering, something about his wife’s dream. One so easily swayed just needed the right motivation. “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” That did it, and with the backing of the mindless sheep crying out for the man’s crucifixion this little problem would be taken care of quickly.
Look at the people. They called him Messiah, they were enraptured by his teaching and clamored with tongues of praise at his entrance just days ago. Now they followed him to the hill outside of the city spitting and cursing him. They would see him hung on a cross for a promise of money and piety.
The wind was blowing and the crowd thinned. Those who were on the fringes were the only ones left and they came as close as they dared. The soldiers were not gentle, one less Jew was nothing to them. This broken, bleeding prophet was no more or less human than any other occupant on the crosses that dotted the landscape. The difference was that this man didn’t argue or resist. At least it made it easier to place his hands and feet against the rough timber. Yet, there was something in his eyes that was unsettling. What was it? Compassion? The soldier struck him in the face and laughed trying to replace the image that might stir his heart to care.
Looking up at the man there were different reactions. The religious rulers mocked him. They saw nothing but a rival. The women who stood around crying saw their very heart broken. Standing by their side, trying to comfort them, were men who saw their hopes die. Soldiers were conflicted, some saw a criminal, others an opportunity for financial gain, and one saw a son of god. But from whatever perspective they watched, they all saw the same thing…a dying man.
This man had given the last three years of his life preaching a kingdom of peace and love. He had called men to repent and turn to God. He had offered freedom through truth, healing through touch, and forgiveness from sins. He knew the sheep were lost and needed a shepherd to lead the way, but the sheep couldn’t understand that the way was through the cross.
He looked down on the people standing around, watching his agony. They were lost and without hope. Through the cloud of his pain he remembered his call, “come to me all you who are weary.” If they could only understand. “In this world you will have trouble, fear not, I have overcome the world.” Those watching could only see was the man’s pain, but he looked on them with hope, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” There was something better coming.
The man winced in pain as he struggled to breathe, and each time he groaned the sobs of the women echoed down the hill. It wasn’t the first time he had seen the women weeping. “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid Lazarus?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” They were not use to seeing him cry because they never really understood what broke his heart. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
He willingly let them crucify him so that the unwilling could find their way. It started to rain. The drops did not relieve his pain. His nerves were hypersensitive and each drop sizzled on his skin. “Why have you forsaken me?” The dark clouds gathered closer together and all the man could see was emptiness – he was alone. Those on the ground could not help and his heavenly father would not help. Tempted to give in to his suffocation he pushed one more time and breathed as deep as his weight would allow. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Yet, he didn’t feel his breath carried any more power.
The man heard a whisper, “In him was life,” but he could feel his life slipping away. “And the life was the light of men,” he couldn’t let go or those on ground would be without his light. “The light shines in the darkness,” where would they be but lost souls on a dark road, “and the darkness has not overcome it,” but the darkness was coming, his eyes started to dim. Lifting himself one more time he cried as loud as he could, “It is finished!” and the whisper was swept away by the wind and fell on the ears of those closest until it was gone, he was gone, and along with heaven the earth wept.