WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED MY JESUS?
K. V. Varghese Ampat
On the wings of imagination, I travelled back in time to A.D. 30 to Jerusalem. By the time I reached there, the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ were over and He had been buried. Though I rushed to Jerusalem to witness the trial, I was unable to reach there in time. Therefore I could not witness the trial and the cruel, brutal killing of the One whom I believed was the Messiah. So I was anxious to know about the reactions of those who were close to Jesus and also of those who had a hand in the crucifixion. Most of the people were indoors as Sabbath was being observed.
First of all, I wanted to meet Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus. But when I learned of his death, I decided to visit his wife who was weeping and wailing. I asked her how Judas could betray his Master, who was his friend and guide for nearly three and a half years. In fact, Jesus trusted him more than anybody else in as much as he entrusted the purse to him. Was it not a betrayal so cruel for a mere thirty pieces of silver? What was the motive behind this betrayal?
She felt hurt and stopped crying, wiped her tears, cleared her throat, and said, "Sir, you may call my husband anything. But don't say that he betrayed Jesus. We respected and loved Him most of all. But, Judas became a victim of deceit and was cheated by the High Priest and his men. They told him that they too respected Jesus for all that He was doing, and that they wanted to talk to Him in private to know from Him, whether He was really the Messiah, whom they were looking for. For this, they wanted Judas to indicate who the man named Jesus was, at an appropriate time and place. In return they gave him thirty pieces of silver. But what happened afterwards terrified him and he realised that he had been cheated. He was so sad seeing the way in which Jesus was treated by the High Priest and his men. So he went and threw the silver pieces at their faces and killed himself. Had it been a betrayal for money, there was no need for him to do what he did. So, Sir, please do not say that Judas betrayed Jesus."
Though I didn't fully believe what she said, I thought there was some truth in it and moved on. Do we not betray Jesus for money, position or material benefits? Think for a moment.
Then I went to the house of Simon Peter. He was lying on his bed weeping bitterly for having denied Jesus three times. He was very remorseful and miserable. When I called him by name, he came out, took his hands off his face and looked at me. His eyes were red from crying. Though he was very upset and agitated, he agreed to talk to me. I asked him, "How could you deny Jesus Christ when He needed your support the most? You were the closest to Jesus of all His disciples, were you not? It was you who declared Jesus as the Son of God; it was you who very vehemently said that you wouldn't desert Him, even if you had to die. In the garden, you tried to defend Him with your sword. Yet you denied Him three times before some servant woman, forgetting His warning. How would you react now to this and to the crucifixion of Jesus?"
Peter answered, "Brother, please don't look at me with contempt as one who deserted his dear friend at a time when he was in trouble. I really wanted to defend Him and that was why I followed Him to the inner court. But I do not remember how it all happened. I am so sad and ashamed to talk about it. For a moment I was overtaken by fear for my own life and I thought that, if they recognised me as one of His followers, they would arrest me and treat me the same way they did to Him. My life was in danger and I forgot my Lord. How foolish I was! But then the eyes of the Master fell upon me. I realised my mistake; but by then, I could do nothing. They have crucified my Lord, but I have decided to follow in His footsteps, obeying His commandments, and if they kill me, let them."
What about us? Do we not deny Jesus, knowing fully well that it was Jesus who saved us from all our sins? Is it nothing for us to see Him on the cross? Just think for a moment.
I moved on to meet the secretary of the union of merchants who received me courteously. I put the question as to what the reaction of the business community was on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who had gone about doing good to all. He thought for a moment and said, "The business community, especially the merchants of Jerusalem, respected Jesus as a prophet. As you said, He moved in the villages doing good to all. His teachings were like those of a guru with extraordinary wisdom. His occasional visits to the temple were a source of more business to us. But He shattered all our expectations on His last visit to the temple. We, merchants, eagerly look forward to the festival days. It is on those days that we make some real money because many people gather to offer sacrifices. We sell them the animals for sacrifice and change their money into temple coins at a price fixed by us after looking at the faces of those who come to purchase or exchange. The common people are ignorant of the market, and the rich want to show off. We take full advantage of both and make a good profit. But during the last visit, Jesus rode into the city on an ass with all His disciples and followers like a king and the crowd shouting, "Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord." We had already set up the tables, brought a large number of sheep, goats and birds to be sold, and were ready for the crowd. But this Jesus, proud of being treated like a king, made a whip and beat the merchants and turned over the tables and let loose the animals and birds, as though the temple was His private property. He called us robbers and hypocrites. How proud and haughty He was! Since then we have hated Him, but we did not approve of His crucifixion even though we thought He deserved severe punishment."
What is happening in the Christian community today? Is it not a business community crucifying Jesus every day on some pretext or the other? Is it nothing to you, leaders of the church?
Simon The Pharisee
I proceeded to the house of Simon, a representative of the elite Jewish community. He was a very rich man, honoured by the people and well known for his charitable deeds. He welcomed me with a broad smile, gave me water to wash my feet and led me to his well-furnished sitting room decorated with wall paintings and costly curtains. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, he enquired of the purpose of my visit. I told him that I had heard the story of Jesus of Nazareth and how He was given away by the Pharisees and scribes to the Romans who, in turn, crucified Him. I said I would like to know what crime He had committed and what his opinion was on this brutal killing. Simon said, "I am glad you approached me, because I was one who respected Him although all the Pharisees and scribes, including the High Priest, were against Him as He had been preaching many things against the laws of Moses and our customs and practices. But in my heart, I gave Him a place of honour. But may I tell you what happened?"
"I invited Him to my house for an evening together with some of my relatives and friends. Everyone was enjoying. Then the most horrible thing happened. A woman of disrepute in the city, a sinner, entered my house. She sat at Jesus' feet, crying bitterly. She wetted His feet with her tears, wiped them with her flowing hair and anointed His feet with a very costly ointment, the fragrance of which filled the room. This Jesus, without speaking a word, allowed her to do so. When my friends dissented, Jesus not only defended her actions, but also humiliated me and my friends, by saying that I did not give Him water to wash His feet when He arrived and did not honour Him. In fact, if He really was a prophet, He should have known who the woman was and should not have allowed her to touch Him as she was a sinner, and was destined to be stoned to death. From this incident, I realised that He was neither a prophet, nor the Messiah, and it was fitting to remove Him from the society. I agreed with the other Pharisees and scribes that He deserved death."
How do we Christians react today to this action of Jesus, forgiving the woman's sins and letting her go free?
I was curious to know how the ordinary people reacted. I approached a white-collared passer-by and asked him what he thought of the crucified Jesus Christ. I said, "You must have seen Him many times, heard Him, and witnessed His miracles. What do you think of Him?" His reply was very casual. He said, "I have seen, heard and walked along with the crowd following Jesus. But I don't know anything about Jesus Christ as a person, except that He was from Nazareth, and the son of Mary. He claimed to be the Son of God, but I cannot understand how God could have a son through a human being. Anyway I did not bother much. One day as He travelled to Jerusalem, followed by a crowd shouting, "Hosanna," I too followed, shouting. On another occasion, Jesus was taken to the court of Pilate by the Jews and I was one among the crowd that gathered. The High Priest called out to the crowd to shout, "Crucify Him." I did not and I still do not know for what crime He was to be crucified, and I did not bother to enquire. But I shouted along with the rest of the crowd."
So, that is the common man. What is happening in our country? The leaders tell the people to shout what they want to have shouted and the people follow blindly. In most of the jathas, the people shout, even though they do not know why they are doing so, or perhaps they do it for a pittance. That is why it is said, the people are asses. It was so, even 2000 years ago. Let me ask the crowd, "Is it nothing to you that the Son of Man is hanging on the cross?" Just think for a moment.
Joseph Of Arimathea
Now I approached Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Cabinet, the Jewish Council, which condemned Jesus to death. I was told that he was a righteous man, wealthy, well respected and a follower of Jesus Christ in secret. I met him and asked him why he did not plead for Jesus, being in a position to do so, and why he did not attend the meetings. I told him that he should at least have been there for the last meeting when Jesus was condemned to death.
I saw him wipe his tears as he spoke in a choked voice, "I was a lone man in the Council, isolated and helpless. Moreover, I was afraid because all the members of the Council were against Jesus because He criticised them using very strong terms, calling them vipers, white washed sepulchres, etc. In spite of this, I wished to attend the Council meetings. The other members knew that I had always considered Jesus to be the one we were expecting to come. They prevented me from going. They told me that the situation was very tense and that my life would be in danger. They prevailed over me and I did not go. I comforted myself saying that even if I had gone, I could not have changed anything. I was in such a helpless condition. I truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but I kept it a secret because I feared the leaders of the Jews."
How helpless we Christians are at times! Fearing those who are out to persecute us, we fail to witness for Christ. It is more than true in these days. Think for a moment. Do we feel no sorrow seeing our Saviour hanging on the cross?
Pilate, The Governor
Now, where do I go and whom should I meet? I decided to meet Pilate, the Governor of Judea and Samaria, who gave Jesus away to be crucified. I knew that he would be in Jerusalem to keep law and order during the Jewish festival. Though at first I was denied permission to enter the court, one of his aides helped me and I was let in. Pilate received me cordially with the smile of a thief and bade me to take a seat. I knew I did not have much time to speak with a busy man such as he. So I immediately told him the purpose of my visit and asked him, "Your Honour, You are the supreme judge of the people of this land and mete out Roman justice to all. Now, the Jews had brought before you a person named Jesus, after condemning Him to death by their Council. You were to examine Him and to confirm this death sentence so that they could execute their decision. You examined Him thoroughly and declared publicly that you found no faults in Him, deserving any punishment, leave alone death penalty. This you did, not once but three times. And you knew that it was due to jealousy that the leaders of the Jews wanted to do away with Jesus. Yet, you handed over the innocent man to be crucified. Was it not a travesty of justice, or should I say murder of justice? Would you please tell me what made you to pass such a judgment against all accepted norms of justice? What was your motive? How do you react to it now?"
Looking everywhere but at my face, Pilate said, "What you said about the travesty and murder of justice may be true. But there is something above that, namely my SELF. I had to protect my position. Do you know that the leaders of the Jews threatened me saying that they would appeal to Caesar? I know Caesar; if he heard that I acted against the will of the people, I would be removed from my position and he might even kill me. So, I had to protect my position and life. You might say that I am selfish, to kill an innocent man to protect my position. But I had to. For me, my position is worth much more than the life of a Jew. So I gave Jesus away to be crucified and I have no regrets." Then I was escorted out of the court.
What a judge! Do we not share something in common with Pilate? At times, we know what is right, but choose to do the wrong. Pilate had his moment and we have ours. What are we doing with our opportunities and responsibilities? What judgment have we passed on Jesus? Are we not crucifying Him everyday for our selfish desires? The leaders in our society try to cling to their positions of power by all means. Whenever anyone does this, he or she is crucifying Jesus. Just think for a moment.
I had covered almost every walk of life. Now all I had to do was to find a representative of the other gender. The first person that came to my mind was Mary Magdalene, and I immediately went to find her. She was hiding with some of the disciples of Jesus, fearing the Jews. I told her that I wanted to talk to her in private and she came out. She had been crying so much that her eyes were swollen and her cheeks, deep red. Her hair was let loose and her dress was untidy. Yet a ray of hope radiated from her face. I conveyed my condolences on the death of Jesus Christ, and asked her what her reaction was to the crucifixion of Jesus, as one who was very close to Him ever since He healed her from the seven devils that possessed her and as one who cared for Him and followed Him even up to the cross.
Mary shrugged her shoulders and said, "Christ had told us many times of the death that awaited Him, through direct speeches and parables. He had expounded many a time the prophecies of Isaiah, David, Zechariah and others of old. He had made it very clear that the Jews would kill him. But we did not understand it then. Yet, in my heart of hearts I believed all that He said, even though when it actually happened, it shattered all my hopes and beliefs. But now I truly believe that it was necessary that Christ should suffer these things and enter into glory. Now I am waiting to see the dawn of the third day, when He will rise up from the dead. This is my hope. I do not want to blame those who crucified Him because it was all ordained by God beforehand and that it was necessary that Christ should die for the salvation of mankind. I praise God."
Now my dear readers, think for a moment and answer the question. Is it still nothing to you that Jesus Christ died on the cross? Let us humble ourselves and thank God for His greatest gift, His only Son who came to save us from our sins and give us a place in the life eternal.