So my favorite crucifixion story is John’s.
In John’s story there are three major players: the power brokers (Pilate and the religious leaders), the clueless (the Roman soldiers), and finally, Jesus and His followers.
John laid them out in this beautiful pattern:
- The Power Brokers (19:19-22)
- The Clueless (19:23-24)
- The Followers and Jesus (19:25-30)
- The Power Brokers (19:31)
- The Clueless (19:32-37)
- The Followers and Jesus (19:38-42)
We will only look at the first half this morning. I’ll leave the second half for you to do on your own. So let’s jump in…
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying hs own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
The Power Brokers
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Tragically, Pilate and the religious leaders play the “I’m-Better-than-You-Are” game throughout John’s Passion narrative. God hangs on a cross in front of them, dying, and all they care about is their reputations, their ambitions, their dreams and schemes. They square off with one another over things that don’t matter. They battle over inconsequential scraps of power.
At the end of many days I reflect and find that I as well have ignored the death of God, failed to deny myself, and instead cared far to much about my reputation, my ideas, my ambition, my dreams, my… my… my… Too many days it is too much about me.
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did.
Other days I’m like the soldiers. God’s sacrificial love plays out before me; but I go about my day as if nothing is happening. I continue to collect my trinkets. I cash my pay checks. I repeat the daily mundane. Each hour floats by as I accomplish one meaningless task after another; barely aware of what is going on around me. I’m clueless to the mission of God. I ignore His world-changing love in action. Lost in my own world, I miss Him.
Jesus and His Followers
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
There are a few things that characterize the followers that I wished were consistently characteristic of me. First, they are consumed with Jesus. The suffering and dying Christ are all they can focus on. Second, they are family. They are united together by their love for Jesus and one another. If only our communities were defined by such things.
I also wish I was more like Jesus. Even in His worst moment He is loving others. Even the rejection and scorn of the world He came to save cannot slow His compassion for others. On the cross He cares. On the cross He heals. On the cross He restores.
That is my God.
Today, let’s put aside our self-ambitions and vain conceits.
Today, let’s awake to the mission of God in our midst and stop walking through our days in clueless slumber.
Today, let’s embrace one another and love like Christ loved. Let’s look for the hurting and bring healing that restores. Even when things get painful, let’s not let our troubles slow us from embracing those around us. Let us imitate our God who loved the world so deeply he died on the cross to bring us new life.
Let Christ be our focused and let “It is finished!” be our cry.