Wintonbury Lent Devotional | Week 5
Mercy on the Cross
by Jesse Buchanan
Jesus is Crucified
Luke 23: 27-31, 33-34
It’s one of Jesus’ lowest moments. He’s been unjustly sentenced by a cowardly bureaucrat and he’s now being led away to one of the most excruciating and humiliating executions of the ancient world.
Before meeting a crowd of people weeping for him, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who admitted Jesus was innocent of the charges against him. Pilate later caved to the crowd and sentenced Jesus to death
Not everyone is against Jesus, though. A crowd of people were likely waiting for the results of his trial and flocked to him after he was led away.
Pain awaits Jesus, both the physical pain of crucifixion and the unimaginable pain of God’s wrath. But there’s also the pain of humiliation. Jesus had been revered by his followers and called teacher. Now he’s being led away like a criminal.
I’ve never been wrongly accused of a crime or humiliated in that way. I can only take what is a minor embarrassment, security checkpoints at an airport, and imagine that magnified by a million. There’s a little bit of indignation after passing through the security line while you retie your shoes and put your belt back on – “Of course I wasn’t trying to hide anything!”
Now imagine Jesus, the only truly innocent man who lived, after his sentencing. What would most men say to a sympathetic crowd right after that injustice?
But Jesus doesn’t try to assert his innocence, he doesn’t call out Pilate. His concern is for the crowd and their future suffering. “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me,” Jesus said. “Weep for yourselves and for your children.”
Four decades after Jesus’ death, Israel would rebel against Rome. Despite some initial success, the Roman armies would retake the country and siege Jerusalem for two years. Jesus, fully God, knew that some of the mourning women and certainly their children would live to see this horrendous siege and the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman armies.
Jesus had prepared himself for this moment with prayer in the garden. He knew his mission and this focus allowed him to transcend his own suffering and think of others. But this isn’t just for Jesus, a perfect man and a holy God. Persecuted believers who pray for their tormenters also exhibit this power as do we when we look out not only for our own interests but also those of others.
Jesus amazes further. He’s led to Golgotha for death among criminals. Executioners are driving the nails into his wrists and feet, ready to hoist Jesus up on the cross and leave him to suffocate under his own weight for hours upon hours.
If his death were a defeat, Jesus would call down curses on these men who are doing harm to the Son of God. But Jesus understands that he’s exactly where the will of the Father has led him. He’s dying as much for the men who are executing him as the crowd that mourned him a few minutes earlier.
And so he prays, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Questions for Reflection
Jesus could have died for us without the humiliation of a sham trial. What did this aspect of his suffering show us about his love?
Jesus' mind is on others even when he's in pain. What's an opportunity for us to do the same?