32 As they were going out, they found Simon, a man from Cyrene. They forced him to carry his cross. 33 When they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place, 34 they gave Jesus wine mixed with vinegar to drink. But after tasting it, he didn’t want to drink it. 35 After they crucified him, they divided up his clothes among them by drawing lots. 36 They sat there, guarding him. 37 They placed above his head the charge against him. It read, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” 38 They crucified with him two outlaws, one on his right side and one on his left.
39 Those who were walking by insulted Jesus, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross.”
41 In the same way, the chief priests, along with the legal experts and the elders, were making fun of him, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he can’t save himself. He’s the king of Israel, so let him come down from the cross now. Then we’ll believe in him. 43 He trusts in God, so let God deliver him now if he wants to. He said, ‘I’m God’s Son.’” 44 The outlaws who were crucified with him insulted him in the same way (Matthew 27:32-44, Common English Bible).
We like to think we have come a long way. We have made progress but there is still a long way to go.
And, I remember.
I remember following the arrest of Timothy McVeigh for his crimes in the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the police escorted him from one jail facility to another. Of course, he was handcuffed and shackled. He was wearing a bullet proof vest. He was also completely surrounded by law enforcement officers. Had he tried to run… well let’s just say it would have been a fool’s errand.
All those things, none of them bothered me. For the interest of public safety, they had to keep him in custody. For the safety of a man accused of horrendous crimes, but not yet convicted, they had to protect him.
What I remember most from that day were the insults shouted at McVeigh. I understood it. People were angry over what had happened, and rightfully so. While we certainly shouldn’t convict someone without due process, people were angry. Words may sting but the anger was understandable.
Please understand, I am not trying to compare Jesus and Timothy McVeigh. Many of us would like to think we would not be involved in the insults thrown at Jesus. To the general public of the day, Jesus was a condemned criminal. Insults went with the territory. While we no longer have public executions, the insults thrown at McVeigh do show we, today, are no less likely to be a part of such behavior.
It wasn’t that many years ago that a great number of white people were shouting insults at a black man that most anyone in those crowds would have gladly taken his place. Jackie Robinson took a great deal of abuse. He wasn’t a criminal, he was a baseball player.
All this is to say, before we claim we would never be part of what happened to Jesus, we need to stop and remember the perspective of the Jews. We know the whole story, that is a luxury the Jews did not have. And, even if we weren’t so inclined to start with, the crowd mentality can be something very powerful. And, there is a good possibility we may not be as innocent as we would like to think.
Lord, forgive me.
Have a blessed day in the Lord,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved