“Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”—John 19:16-18, NIV
The week began with violence. On Sunday afternoon, I was on the north side of Kansas City when a gunman shot and killed three people on the south side. Once again, violence has been visited on the innocent, something that seems all too common in our nation. And once again the hate was directed against the faithful. The fact that the gunman intended to kill Jews and ended killing Christians only reminds us that an attack based on hatred against any person—no matter that person’s race, faith, or social status—is an attack on all of us.
This is a week that ends in violence. Jesus is flogged, ridiculed, forced to carry a cross through Jerusalem, and crucified. His death is bloody, brutal, and very public.
There are many theological interpretations of the crucifixion. Whatever you believe, two things seem central. First, humanity put Jesus on that cross. Not just political or religious leaders, but people like you and me. No matter their motivation, they justified their actions as being good of the people. Second, Jesus accepted this violence against his person. In so doing, he stood in the place of all who suffer—past, present, future. He identified with our humanity. What a paradox! Humanity put Jesus on the cross and he, in turn, accepted it on behalf of humanity.
When people are killed, mutilated, and abused, we grieve but are we willing to take the step that Jesus took and willingly stand in their place?