Today’s Scripture Passage: Mark 15: 20-33
To read today’s portion of the account of the Passion, click on the below link:
So they led him away and they hung him on the cross. They chided him to save himself. But Jesus was even too weak to carry his own cross. They randomly pluck a man out of the crowd to help him carry it. Now if we were doing the staging of this, we probably would have written in one of the disciples to do this, one of those who had traveled with Jesus these past years and received so much love and so much of life from Jesus. It would have made more sense for one of those whom Jesus had stooped down below last night to wash his feet in a poetic depiction of incredible mutuality. But that’s not what happened. As it becomes more and more difficult for Jesus to carry his cross, it is a stranger who stoops to serve Jesus. We really know very little about Simon—is he black, brown, white, olive-skinned? Does it matter? He was from Libya—a foreigner to the city of Jerusalem. Anonymously plucked out of the crowd to help a bleeding dying man, he stooped and hoisted the cross that Jesus was carrying to his own shoulder. Even at this late hour, God has orchestrated a Divine reversal in what the world expected. Isn’t that just like God? But, you have to wonder, where were the disciples? Where were you?
The account says that they brought Jesus to Golgotha. The name derives from the Aramaic golgolta, meaning “skull” or “place of the skull”. Early tradition assumed that this was a site west of the city. And when the Lukan Scripture was translated into Latin, it became known as “Calvary.” But somewhere in history, the site was lost. Perhaps it wasn’t even a specific site at all but a sort of general area away from the bustle of the city where these crucifixions would occur. In 330, the Emperor Constantine tore down a Roman temple to Aphrodite and built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which tradition now recognizes as the last stations of Jesus’ journey to the cross, the site of the Crucifixion, and the site of the burial. The present structure, built by the Crusaders, still houses the Constantine structure and the tradition. Maybe it’s best that it’s like that. Maybe it’s best that the actual site of Jesus’ final moments is not really known and even that Jesus’ final resting place is more of a tradition than a known place. After all, would you have been there anyway? Maybe the anonymity is the whole point, sort of a depiction of our faith journey as we wander with no real knowledge of where it is we’re going–only that God is calling us there.
So, accompanied by an anonymous person to an anonymous place, Jesus is crucified. The one who not so long ago had been surrounded by friends and followers, who a short time ago had preached to thousands on a hillside near the Galilean lake, and who only days ago had been showered with palm-branches in acclaim for who he was, was totally alone. The one who had come into the world to save the world was now going to die in a shroud of anonymity. It’s pointless to ask the question as to whether or not you were there. You weren’t. I wasn’t. No one was.
The life that began in the humble anonymity of a rough-hewn manger was ending the same way on a rough-hewn cross. Maybe that was the whole point. We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing out. We are here for but a short time that, by the very Grace of God, is hopefully so filled with life and love that when our life here has ended, love still remains. We do not know exactly where Jesus was born and we can’t pinpoint the location where he died. What we do know is that while Jesus hung on the cross waiting those agonizing hours to die, God had plunged down to the very depths of humanity, to the places of loneliness and despair, to the places of abandonment and darkness, to the places where we are sometimes afraid to go. And there, God began to say Creation into being once again. The cross is God’s highest act of Creation yet. And when it was all said and done, it was Love that remained.
H.J. Iwand said that “our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.” So, in all probability, the explanation of the Cross is that there is no explanation. At humanity’s lowest point, whether or not we bother to show up at all, it is only God who can save us.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Where you there whey they crucified my Lord?
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon…
Grace and Peace,