Reflections on John 19:1-16a.
I must admit that it is difficult to truly absorb, what we call the “Passion Narrative” for a multitude of reasons. It’s difficult for me to get my head wrapped around what exactly happened and why. My mind swirls with questions such as:
- Why was Pilate afraid?
- Why did Pilate keep questioning Jesus, even after the crowd and chief priests said they wanted Barabbas released and not Jesus?
- Who really is responsible for Jesus’ death? Who is the one with ultimate authority?
- What does it mean to be King, the Prince of Peace?
- Why did John use the Hebrew word, Gabbatha? Did he have a specific reason?
And then ultimately, why was the Son of God crucified? Why did God die in such a brutal way? And if Jesus was truly God, how is it even possible that a god could die by human hands?
They are such profound and literally impossible questions to answer. The early church fathers, themselves, wrestled with these questions. It’s one of the reasons that we have the Nicene Creed today.
But no matter how much my mind tries to wrap itself around these questions and to come up with an answer, I can’t. I won’t. Truthfully, I really don’t want these questions answered. I don’t want to get into the doctrine or the historical literary criticism of this story.
Instead, I just want to let this story pierce my soul. I just want to have tears roll down my face because of the brutal and humiliating questioning, beating, and death of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I want this story to affect my heart, to transform me into the Christian that I am supposed to be. I want this story to tell me, to tell all of us, that Jesus loves us that much.
I so desperately want the words, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” to be the words shouted angrily by my voice and yet those very same words, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” to be the words that when heard pierces my heart.
But it doesn’t happen. Maybe we have bogged this story down with too many doctrinal answers or scholarly reasoning. Maybe we have heard this story too many times over the years and we have just become numb to it. Yeah, it happened. We know the story. In the end, Jesus is fine. He rises from the dead. He comes back to be with the disciples. To teach them once more.
Or maybe it is easier just to be numb. Being numb means that we don’t have to feel. We don’t have to let those horrific words spoken by our lips of “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” penetrate, pierce our hearts. And we don’t have to show the world our tears. And we don’t have to show the person sitting next to us that in reality, the truth is that we are afraid, just like Pilate. We are afraid to let Jesus transform us. Because that is what his death does. The death of Jesus transforms us.
When we are only willing to shout “Hosanna! Hosanna to the King!” and “He Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!” we block out Jesus’ transforming power. We numb ourselves to his sacrificial love. We fail to acknowledge our own actions and words of “Crucify Him!”
Holy Week is much more than just attending more worship services. Holy Week is much more than just honoring our duty and obligation as good church members. Holy Week is about entering into the story. It is about our feet being washed gently and lovingly. It is about us receiving the bread and the wine. It is about us denying Jesus when questioned by others about our belief. It is about us yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And it is about us nailing his hands and his feet, and piercing his side. So that ultimately, His unconditional and faithful love and His grace can pierce our hearts.
So this week, as we prepare our hearts for entering into the Passion Narrative, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, let us hear again of the final moments of Jesus’ arrest and betrayal. Let us allow this story to open our hearts and begin to pierce our souls.
Let the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ love that day on the cross and every day transform you. Amen.