Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. Like most people, I have a bucket list of places I want to visit while I am able. Ireland and Scotland are on that list. I want to experience the beauty of the countryside, the music, listen to the bagpipes, oh and let’s not forget the kilts. I also want to travel to Churchill Downs to stand on the infield during the running of the Kentucky Derby, dressed in a very elegant giant hat while holding a Mint Julep. However the place I want most to experience is the Holy Land.
I imagine myself there in the midst of the courtyard with the sun beating down, listening to the conversations between three active participants discussing what should happen to the man, Jesus, who was accused of blasphemy by the religious leaders. When asked by Pilate if he was the King of the Jews, Jesus responded in the Gospel of John by saying: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (Jn 18:36). By saying this, the religious leaders said that he claimed to be God, which was blasphemy for which they wanted him crucified. Then there are the bystanders who yelled, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Wasn’t it just a few days before on Palm Sunday that some of them, waved palm branches and sang “Hosanna to the Son of God” as he rode into the city on a donkey? They wanted and expected Jesus, whose very name meant “Savior” to gather an army to overthrow the Roman government, but this did not happen. Lastly, there was Pilate, who by all accounts was a brutal man that thought nothing of torturing and killing someone. During the trial, Pilate claimed that he did not find Jesus guilty of any charges and yet, he acquiesced to the pressure of the people and the religious leaders. Because we know the rest of the story, it might be easy to stand in judgement of these three groups of people because we would never shout crucify him! Right?
It is when I place myself there in the midst of this trial that it becomes clear why this story is so important. It is for all of the people in the courtyard that he was nailed to the cross. It is for the religious leaders who could not “see” the Son of God that he died. It is for the people who had their own ideas about who he was and how he should serve them that he was convicted and sent to the cross. And yes, it was for me, that he was beaten and crucified because I been every one of those people any number of times in my life. It is because of Christ’s sacrifice that we receive his unending grace. But the story doesn’t end at the cross… Stay tuned…