Who is nailed to the cross?
If you were a bystander at Mount Calvary and you asked who was being crucified you would have received different answers depending on whom you asked.
If you asked a Roman soldier, he would have told you this was a criminal whose charge sheet read 'the King of the Jews'. More than that, he couldn’t tell you; he was just obeying orders.
If you asked a Jewish elder he would have told you angrily that this man was a blasphemer, who defiled the Sabbath, and forgave sins and made outrageous claims to be the Son of God, he was a deluded but dangerous individual.
If you asked his beloved disciple, he would have said that this man was the Messiah, the promised one, upon whom he and his friends had placed their hopes; the one they had given up everything to follow.
And if you asked his mother, racked with grief, she would have told you that this was her son, the babe she had carried in her womb, the one she had suckled and nurtured, whom she had watched grow and become a man. It was her baby boy who was nailed to the cross.
Jesus of Nazareth, different things to different people.
All that Jesus had shown himself to be was nailed to the cross, the healer, the teacher, the instrument of God’s mercy.
Only a few of his followers were strong enough to stomach the sight of him on the cross. The women were braver than the men, Mary Magdalene, the one from whom Jesus had cast seven demons, whose debt of gratitude to him was so great that she had given her life to provide for him and his disciples. She would have beheld this awful sight with a broken heart.
But imagine if Jairus were also there, with his daughter beside him; Mary and Martha with their brother Lazarus; the widow of Nain, being comforted by her son. Think about how they would have felt on seeing the restorer of life dying on the cross.
Imagine the crippled man Jesus had healed at the pool of Bethesda, clambering up Mount Calvary; the man cured of his deafness, now hearing Jesus cry out from the cross; Bartimaeus, the once blind beggar now seeing the restorer of his sight in agony.
Imagine what they would have felt.
All that Jesus declared himself to be: the good shepherd, the bread of life, the true vine, every aspect of him was nailed to the cross. The resurrection and the life was nailed to the cross; the way the truth and the life was crucified.
All of him was nailed to the cross, all of him was killed by his enemies, who thought that was the end of Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
There on the cross, hung God in a bloodied, broken, body. It distressed those few brave people who loved him and stood at the foot of the cross. And it should distress us on this Good Friday, that it had to come this, that this was the price he had to pay for love of us.
When you come up to venerate the cross, you will see beside it a crown of thorns, and a nail, to remind us of the reality of the crucifixion, to give small hints of what it was like to behold. The crown is fragile but the nail, a relic touched against one of the nails of the crucifixion venerated in Santa Croce in Rome is not fragile at all. Pick it up, if you wish, feel it, press it into your flesh, and contemplate what Our Lord endured for us.
Christ died to wipe away our sins. All sin was wiped away that day, by this ultimate act of sacrifice. In an ideal world, this cancelling of sin would have ushered in an era of peace and harmony, of progress in goodness as the human race understands God more perfectly and becomes more like him. But this is not an ideal world, because it is inhabited by human beings who persistently behave badly. The cruelty, the lies, the injustice that nailed Jesus to the cross continue; and of such sins can we claim to be innocent?
On Mount Calvary we behold the crucified one. The Christian quest to know God as he truly is, begins here, with the sight of a dead body nailed to the cross. Here in the sacrifice of Jesus, we begin to understand the truth about God: that his mercy is boundless; and there is no limit to his love for us. On the cross we see the proof that God loved this world so much that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.
Pilate and Jesus have a verbal tussle over what constitutes truth. Pilate asks the question, ‘what is truth?’ but does not stay for an answer.
Every time we lie, every time we twist and manipulate the truth, we are crucifying him again; another nail is driven in.
We worship the truth, if we are disciples of he who is The Way, the truth and the Life. The truth must be sacred to us.
Truth is not revered today in the world. It has been said that we are living in the post-truth era. We now have ‘alternative facts’; in political campaigns it does not matter what you say, what lies you tell, as long as you win. In our virtual age, once something is posted on the internet, it acquires a veracity it does not merit.
Lies are of the devil, whom Jesus calls the father of lies, lies
are his native language. They bring harm and destruction and damage our relationships.
Being truthful may not make for an easy life. It was not so for Jesus, the very embodiment of truth. The truth hurts. But the truth brings life, as we are enabled to see things as they truly are, and not as a mirage, a false picture.
We can only have a worthwhile future if we love the truth. Our love for the truth emanates from our love for Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.
Whoever belongs to the truth, listens to the voice of Jesus, he who came into the world to testify to the truth, and to show us God as he truly is, and not as an idol, a man-made monster.