The people who heard me preach during Lent know that as a part of my Lenten discipline not only did I give up french fries, but I took on the challenge of participating in the Cooper River Bridge Run. I am not a runner, nor do I play one on TV! This was a major endeavor and one that the congregation seemed to enjoy.
There was another part that didn’t get near the publicity. Each morning I added a reading to my morning routine from the wonderful little book Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. It has been a wonderful addition to my day, often giving me something to ponder, something to store away, something that I wish I had said.
In the later category was a wonderful essay by Morton Kelsey entitled The Cross and the Cellar. I am not preaching on Good Friday, but if I were, I think I might just “borrow” these words. Something for us all to consider on this Good Friday.
Let us look at some of the people who brought Jesus of Nazareth to crucifixion. They were not monsters, but ordinary men and women like you and me.
Pilate was a coward who cared more about his comfortable position than he did about justice. Whenever you and I are willing to sacrifice someone else for our own benefit, whenever we don’t have the courage to stand up for what we see is right, we step into the same course that Pilate took.
Caiaphas was a devout and sincerely religious man. But his essential flaw was that he thought he had the whole truth. He thought he had to protect God from this man. Those who put their creeds above mercy and kindness and love, walk in his steps even today.
Judas wanted Jesus to call upon heavenly powers, take control of the situation, and throw the Romans out of Palestine. When he failed to do this, Judas no longer wanted anything to do with him. Judas’ fault was that he couldn’t wait. When we can’t wait and want to push things through, when we think we can accomplish a noble end by human means, we are just like Judas.
These were the things that crucified Jesus on Friday in Passover week A.D. 29. They were not wild viciousness or sadistic brutality or naked hate, but the civilized vices of cowardice, bigotry, impatience, timidity, falsehood, indifference – vices all of us share, the very vices which crucify human beings today.
This destructiveness within us can seldom be transformed until we squarely face it in ourselves. This confrontation often leads us to the pit. The empty cross is planted there to remind us that suffering is real but not the end, that victory is possible if we strive on.
I so find myself in each of these individuals, which is why I really need to find myself at the foot of the cross to remember.