Christmas and Easter are the two most celebrated Christian holy days. We love the joyous celebration, the decorating, getting together with loved ones – human beings do enjoy a party. Unfortunately, there is no Easter without Good Friday, that dark and terrible day when, to the followers of Christ, it looked like the end of everything. We know it marked the beginning of everything.
It was the time of Passover in Jerusalem. Many Jews journeyed to the city to celebrate. The crowds would have been huge, a perfect time for the Roman government to make an example of the scruffy rabble-rouser who called himself “King of the Jews.” Jesus’ growing popularity was seen as a threat to the stability of the Roman state. No state will tolerate any potential threat to its existence, and often quells any sign of insurrection with the execution of the leader. The Romans viewed crucifixion as a humiliation; a perfect means of killing this “pretender” and his popularity.
Imagine Golgotha on that day. Three crosses on a hill, the surrounding countryside filled with spectators. Some would be there to jeer, some would be there out of curiosity, and some filled with sadness and near despair. Very few would have understood, or even believed, that Jesus was the son of God. This penniless prophet? This son of a lowly carpenter from an obscure little village, calling himself king? Please!
Who would we have been on that terrible day? Would we have watched, callously indifferent to the suffering and dying, telling ourselves, “Surely he deserves his fate. The man was a menace.” Or perhaps we would have stayed home, assured that it had nothing to do with us. We were observant Jews, living under Roman rule. Better to stay away and keep our heads down. It’s easy to assure ourselves that we would have believed that Jesus was the son of God – but we know how the story ends.
Who would we have been among that large crowd?
Well, who are we now?
Throughout the past 2,000 years people have continued to suffer and die, sometimes for being Christians, or sometimes at the hands of Christians. All too often certain groups are met with mistrust and fear. They are not “like us.” Do we tell ourselves, “It’s nothing to do with me.” or “They must have done something to bring this on themselves.”?
All our lives we will be met with many “Golgotha” moments. How will we respond? Will we honor that sacrificial gift of love and resurrection? Will we celebrate our commitment to follow that carpenter’s son, even to the cross?