The gravel road to Golgatha was lined by onlookers, some strangers, some friends of Jesus. Even prior to the events of the day we call Good Friday, significant people were woven into the fabric of the Crucifixion story. Though separated by two millennia, somehow I find myself amidst the crowd, watching the unfolding event of the ages.
Am I Mary? Sweet Mary, who broke her priceless alabaster box and poured the precious oil of her love on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair and washing them with her tears. Such sacrificial love is often misunderstood, as the murmuring disciples vividly demonstrated. What priceless treasure do I possess? Am I willing to pour it all out at the Master’s feet?
Am I James and John? Beloved disciples in the inner circle of Christ. The “sons of thunder”. Partners with Peter at the Transfiguration. Tired. Confused. Worried. After walking with Jesus to the garden, hearing of His distress, the wearied flesh won and they fell asleep at the most critical hour of their Savior’s need. Twice. How many times have I fallen asleep when I most need to be in the presence of Jesus?
Am I Peter? Peter, who means well but doesn’t live it out. Blurting out words of commitment he doesn’t keep. Brashly cutting off a soldier’s ear just hours before repeatedly lying to the crowd around the fire. Oh, inconsistent Peter. How many times have I praised God in the morning and lost my temper in the afternoon; made promises to God on Sunday and denied His presence in my life by mid-week?
Am I Judas? The betrayer; the evil one Had his hands in the money bags all along. Wanted to win big when Jesus took over the kingdom, but had no interest in losing any of himself for the sake of Christ. Once he realized the gig was up, he was out. Got himself in a good position for thirty pieces of silver. Did his dastardly deed with a dirty kiss. Thought he would feel better for winning, only to realize he had lost everything. Everything. The only way out for him was found in a noose hanging over a field scattered with those silver coins. How quickly would I walk away if it appears there is nothing in this following-Jesus-thing for me? What is my price?
Am I Pilate? Powerful Pilate, battered around by peer pressure and the piercing cries of the crowd. Beleagured by his bothered wife who demanded he get out of this Jesus-thing. And Pilate? He didn’t know what to do with Jesus. Jesus wasn’t good for his reputation, his career. Jesus didn’t fit his religious structure or his political agenda. But Jesus didn’t fit the criminal profile either. So Pilate let the crowd decide what he should do with Jesus. And the crowd won. Do I ever listen to the crowd? Do I allow others to determine what I will do with Jesus?
Am I a criminal on the Cross? One, hanging there in agony, derided Jesus, sorry that he couldn’t cash in on this supposed Jesus-power that could save his earthly life. The other, in equal agony, recognized the vast chasm separating the criminals from the Christ. Appealing for mercy, he asks simply to be remembered by Jesus in His Kingdom. Jesus answers this prayer of faith with words of great promise. Like the first criminal, have I forgotten the great gap that exists between my sin and the Savior? Even with the seal of His promise on my life, have I become casual about my acts of contempt in the face of God? Considering the second criminal, have I forgotten what it means to be on my knees, repentant in spirit and asking God for mercy?
I have much to think about on this Good Friday, this day dedicated to remembering the ultimate sacrifice of a Savior who gave His all, crucified on a cruel cross for me. Praise God for His love, forgiveness, and endless mercy on my behalf!