This is the time of year when Christians of all denominations around the world will celebrate history’s most thoroughly corrupt court trial and at the same time its most world-changing power in spite of that corruption.
Jesus, the Son of God, the sinless one, was ignominiously put to death when religious leaders plotted the deed and then overwhelmed Roman authorities – even though our Lord was innocent of all charges. This corrupt dealing was nevertheless world-changing in that our Lord’s crucifixion purchased eternal life for all who accept the substitutionary effect of his death and trust themselves to him as their personal Savior.
What a collection of vignettes the celebration brings to mind!
There is the story of the treacheries of Judas. He was a disciple of three years standing. He had been under the teachings of a Master who was both forever kind and forever honest. He listened to the Lord’s enlivening words, witnessed his miracles, and fellowshipped at his table many times. But as his greed took control of his actions his loyalties faded and he eventually betrayed that Master for a small bag of silver coins.
There is the story of Simon Peter and his responses to the warning that he would face persecution. He had earlier been outspoken about his loyalty to Jesus: “Others may deny you but I never will,” he boasted; “I’ll stick by you even if it means death.” But when a little servant girl recognized him as a disciple, out of his mouth gushed words of denial. Fortunately, he recovered his senses, wept hot tears over his denials, and received the gracious forgiveness of his Master.
There is the story of a cadre of corrupt religious leaders. The soldiers set Jesus before Annas who was not really the high priest at the time but was father-in-law to the high priest but he still exercised power. Then he was passed to this Caiaphas whose political savvy with Roman authorities had kept him in power for several cycles. They and the Jerusalem ruling council broke all laws of jurisprudence in order to achieve their already agreed-upon ends. Their violations of justice will forever be seen as a shameful travesty.
By the scheming of these leaders, Jesus ended where they intended: on a Roman cross. He was between two thieves, where the crowds passing by could gawk and vent their pitiless scorn. And where a broken-hearted mother and his disciple, John, were the only ones left of his followers to keep vigil near the cross.
Seven times, our Lord spoke out from his cross. His fourth cry rings most incessantly in our memories because of what those words mean to our destiny: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the opening verse of Psalm 22.
Was this cry that of a man experiencing harrowing pain and loneliness? That, for sure, but much more. What he suffered was far deeper and more alienating than physical pain. The sin burden he bore — the sins of the whole world — separated him from the Father.
In that moment, his was a cry of abandonment. As he took upon himself the sin of the human race — your sin and mine — a holy God could not look upon sin. Sin always brings separation from God. But in that utter estrangement from God, his cry was still, “My God, my God,” and the separation was temporary since his sacrifice paid the sin debt for all mankind.
Dear Reader: Join me during this pre-Easter season in embracing ever more deeply the salvation bought for us at so great a price. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Photo credit: Kimber Shaw (via flickr.com)