Were You There?

But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” (Mark 15:14)

These days seemed drenched in shadow. Though evil may be helping, the main image that looms is cruciform upon a craggy hill. What happened to the joyful Hosannas that came just days ago? What about the thousands of followers who were fed upon the hillside? And all of those whose very lives were given back to them over the course of these last three years?

All have been wiped away with two little words: crucify him.

Make no mistake, no matter how much we want to point fingers at the Romans for coming up with and carrying out such a gruesome sentence, or the Jewish leaders for finding any excuse to kill the prophet who spoke uncomfortable truths in our midst, or even Judas, his own friend who betrayed him for a sum of silver – we have crucified our Lord.

Every time we come to a service of Tenebrae (the Latin word for “shadows”), one that includes a reading of the passion narrative, this passage is always the most daunting. In the midst of the arguments we hear from the other characters, we shout these two little words – and they ring clearly through every space, echoing their terror.

Then we sing, were you there when they crucified my Lord? But the question is wrong. For there is no “they” in this situation. There is only “we.” We did this.

Every day in our world we drive the nails deeper into the flesh of our beloved Savior. Sometimes when we deride and demolish one another with words. Other times when we promote violence or stick our heads in the sand, rather than find measures that would squash brutal methods but cost us something. Sometimes we refuse to listen to our neighbor or our child who speak truths that we do not want to hear. Other times we turn the other way when we pass someone in need of food, or clean water, clothing, shelter, medical assistance, our presence, or something else that is all too visible. Worst of all are the times that we use God or God’s words as a weapon to annihilate, subjugate, or denigrate one another.

Oh yes, we have crucified our Lord.

Why do we spend so much time talking about the crucifixion when Easter’s empty tomb will see death itself overturn? Aren’t we supposed to be getting ready for the Bunny’s arrival? Where’s that old Easter bonnet and Fred Astaire?

The reason is quite simple: we cannot get the empty tomb without passing through Golgotha. While the world enjoys the rebirth of Spring, we followers of Christ must first acknowledge the cost of new life. Of course these conversations make us uncomfortable. However, if we focus on Easter morning without Friday night we cheapen the Love that stretched out its arms for our sake. What is more, we will never find the new life God intends if we do not first acknowledge the ways we fight it, kicking and screaming, every day.

The bright morning is coming, thank God! Just remember that while Christ may have “paid it all” for our sin, that does not mean that we do not need to face what we have done, what we do, and embrace the change that the Spirit places within our hearts. May you have a blessed Holy Week as we walk with Christ on the path that lies ahead. It may be dark and drenched in shadows, but the Light that shined in the darkness will never be overcome.

Blessings,     Janie

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