I used to read the story of Our Lord’s Passion and come away horrified at the treachery and cowardice of nearly everyone around Jesus. I was unable to understand those who betrayed and denied and abused and killed Christ. They always seemed so foreign, so shocking. But recently I’ve begun to see it quite differently. I’ve realized that the most terrifying thing about the treacherous characters of the Passion is not that they are foreign, but that they are deeply and terribly relatable. If I’m being honest, I must admit that I see myself in every act of betrayal and violence inflicted upon Our Lord.
I am Judas. How many time have I betrayed Jesus with a kiss, pledging my fidelity to Him in one moment and then in the next selling Him out for the sake of my sin? How many times have I plotted against Jesus in my sinful heart? How many times have I rejected His friendship and His Lordship?
I am Peter. How many times have I denied Jesus in front of men — perhaps not with my words, but with my deeds? How many times have I tried to blend in with the world, become a part of it, and avoid the suffering and sacrifice that comes with true faith?
I am Pontus Pilate. How many times have I tried to compromise with our fallen society and find some comfortable middle ground between right and wrong? How many times have I looked indifferently upon wrongdoing? How many times have I washed my hands of cruelty and injustice?
I am Herod. How many times have I been vulgar and ridiculous and irreverent, treating Christ like a magician who exists only to perform tricks for me? How many times have I come to Christ with shallow and selfish petitions? How many times has He given me no answer because my requests were insincere?
I am Barabbas. How many times have I failed to show gratitude as Christ stands in my place and takes the punishment I so richly deserve?
I am the crowd that chose Barabbas over Christ. How many times have I looked for a temporal savior, an Earthly salvation, rather than the eternal paradise Our Lord purchased for us? How many times have I put my hope in the schemes of men and the men who scheme?
I am the unrepentant Thief. How many times have I been unwilling to bear my own little cross, even as Christ bears His for my sake? How many times have I looked to Christ in my suffering and petulantly demanded that He rescue me from the consequences of my own actions?
I am the one who scourged Him. I am the one who spit on Him. I am the one who mocked Him. I am the one who nailed Him to the Cross. The hymn asks if I was there, and the answer is yes. I was there. I was the villain of the story. I killed Jesus. It was me. I did it all through my sin.
I am not the only one, of course. He carried the guilt of all mankind on His back. He suffered the blows of billions. But my guilt is not diminished by the fact that I am one of many. God forbid I ever find comfort in being a member of the crowd, for this crowd is shouting, “crucify Him.”
I take great joy in the fact that Our Lord loved me enough to endure all of this on my behalf. Lord knows I could not endure it. I can hardly endure anything at all. Have I ever suffered anything in my life without complaint? Have I ever embraced any cross with dignity and poise? I don’t know. I fear not. I fear that I am the weakest man to ever walk the Earth.
What can I do, then, but humble myself before the Cross and rejoice in the mercy of the One who died so that I might live?
Have a blessed Good Friday, everyone, and a happy Easter.