Part 3 in series of faith reflections of local voices
By Rev. Joshua Rinus
Pastor, First Lutheran Church
We know the identity of Jesus Christ only in and through this day: the occasion of Jesus' crucifixion at the hands of Roman officials from the urging of his fellow citizens in Jerusalem. His ministry had shown character of compassion, forgiveness, inclusion, and justice-seeking. When ardent religious men demanded the stoning of an adulterous woman, it was Jesus who suggested a plan for her torture: that it begin with one who had done no wrong; not one saw himself fit to hurl that first rock.(John 8) He dined with sinners, spent time with prostitutes, and touched the dirty and diseased to care and heal. Yet, neither his followers nor his attackers comprehended the nature of Jesus without his public trial and execution.
Occupied and oppressed Jews longed for freedom from Roman overlords. They yearned for release from captivity, but also a rebuilding of their religious and political state to its former glory. Leadership was needed and revolt a plausible solution. As a leading candidate, Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was lauded on Palm-Sunday. As an itinerant preacher who advocated for the least and was disinterested in military might, he was a disappointment. Yet, as one to whom crowds were drawn and to whom they listened with intensity, Jesus and his many followers were a potential threat to the Roman occupiers. The officials wanted no insurrections on their hands.
Jesus of Nazareth had already caught the attention of other religious leaders and Roman officials alike from his time in Galilee. Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish world and where Roman power has held locally too. He knew the conflict awaiting him there and his disciples tried to dissuade him, but he spoke cryptically about fulfilling a mission.
Accused of posing as the messiah, religious leaders were able to force his trial—and conviction. Ironically, he was executed for pretending to be just who he was, the Messiah, the Son of God, on a mission to save the world.
The sign on the cross read, “The King of the Jews.” He was mocked and taunted.
“33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 35 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "Listen, he is calling for Elijah." 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was God's Son!" (Mark 15:33-39)
It took execution to comprehend who Jesus was. We only recognize the nature of Jesus life in this day of his crucifixion, when his mission was ironically fulfilled in his forced death: the ultimate gift of sacrificial love. For you, for me.
Scroll down for Parts 1 and 2 in this series of faith reflections of local voices