And having scourged Jesus
he delivered him to be crucified
(Matt 27:26, Mark 15:15)(1)
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
On that day all the prophecies and signs were fulfilled. It was a day on which all kinds of injustice and cruelty took place so that all that was written about Him would be fulfilled.
The judgment of Jesus and the plot to shed His blood were things that happened extremely fast due to the High Priests' and Pharisees' intense envy of Him. Every moment of delay troubled them because their whole aim was to get rid of Him so as to be free to celebrate and enjoy the feast.
Their wrath against Him was great because He had revealed the hidden thoughts of all men, and they could no longer bear the sight of Him nor endure His presence.
They were cruel, and it was a cruelty filled with fear and terror. They wanted to ensure He really died, and even afterwards they continued to be anxious because He had previously told them that He would be resurrected and return. Many people, throughout the ages, have been opposed to Jesus Christ and His children, boldly and impudently attacking both Him and them. But in their hearts there has always been a fear of His power, which was greater than that of the Jews who had killed Him.
"Crucify, crucify him!"
The people were victims of blind leadership and money was one of the reasons for the catastrophe. The clerical power of the High Priests had been able to turn the same people who had given a reception worthy of a king, then cry out to his face "Crucify, crucify him!" (Lk 23:21)
Had they forgotten His kindness and the comfort He had given them? Where were those who had seen His miracles? Where were those He resurrected from death? Where were those whom He had healed from leprosy and paralysis? Where were the five thousand He had taught and fed on the mountain? Where were His disciples? Where was the courageous Peter? They had all fled, every one of them! How despicable are the double standards and callousness of humanity in their spurning of their Redeemer on His day of suffering! If we had lived those days we would have done the same, maybe worse, because without Him, we are worthless.
"Weep over yourselves" (Lk 23:28)
Christ did not accept the wails of the women weeping over Him. He refused feelings of grief and compassion towards Himself because "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities... Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted" (Is 53:5, 4).
He did not deserve to suffer, He was not crucified because of any sin He had committed, that He should accept consolation from people.
I am afraid that we err in the same way on that day because we are sad and weep like the women in scripture who believed He suffered for Himself. It is good for us to weep over ourselves and over our children so that all the pain the Lord underwent will not be in vain. Through ignorance we may distance ourselves from Him in our hearts and consequently refuse the glory He prepared for us through His suffering!
Every blow, every insult and every pain Christ suffered on the cross was for the sake of everyone in all humanity past and present, to remove from every one of us the judgment that stood against us and would surely have been carried out.
In truth they were not Christ's suffering but yours and mine that was due. Surely we should therefore weep over ourselves.
"And he went out bearing his own cross" (John 19:17)
The Apostle John makes it clear that Simon of Cyrene did not carry the cross the whole way, since Christ carried His cross at the beginning. When he fell under the weight they removed it from Him and gave it to Simon of Cyrene, not out of compassion for Christ but in fear that he should die on the way and thus escape the fury of their envy which was to be vented through crucifixion!
I would like us to contemplate: Why did Christ fall under the cross?
He had spent half the night in the garden of Gethsemane praying and his sweat was like drops of blood.
Then came Judas and his friends, who arrested Him, and after that He was presented before the Sanhedrin and judged. They bound him and took Him to Pilate to endorse the sentence. They derided Him and sent Him to Herod, who after examining Him sent Him once more back to Pilate. There the High Priest put pressure on Pilate by stirring up the people and threatening him that if he let Jesus go he would be an enemy of Caesar! So Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified after the hard hearted Roman soldiers had mocked Him, scourged Him and put a wreath of thorns on His head. Then, after all this, He went out carrying the cross!
How many times did He weaken on the way? We do not know. How many times did He faint? We do not know. It has been hidden from us and not mentioned because the description of it would be too hard to bear!
Bear this Honor
Yes, bear the cross. I am not referring to gold crosses that shine like signs of pride and luxury on your chest; I mean the cross of death! The cross has no other meaning than death.
Christ bore the cross because He was prepared to die on it. Everyone who bears the cross but who is not ready to die on it is a liar and hypocrite, not before people but to the cross.
He who carries the cross must prepare himself for death. He who has prepared himself for death must bear the sufferings of crucifixion and those that precede crucifixion. Before you carry the cross prepare yourself for the suffering!
Blessed is the person who does not fear death. Happier even than him is the person who has died to the world and has crucified his desires and his passions!
That was the experience of Gregory the Great, he said: "I stood at the top of the world when I felt within me that I did not desire anything or fear anything".
"Father, forgive them" (Lk 23:34)
The crown of the cross is that we are crucified, and do not crucify anyone else with us!
Christ asked forgiveness for those who had crucified Him so that in His crucifixion no one else should be crucified, and in His death no one else should die, but that He should die to give life to all people!
He said: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44).
Carry the cross, my beloved, but I repeat; not the gold cross on a beautiful chain, but the cross of death, death to the world, the cross of suffering and forgiveness.
"To the place called the place of the skull,
which is called in Hebrew Golgotha" (2)
Sharing His sufferings changed sin into repentance and a mission.
"So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him" (Jn 19:17, 18).
We should not reflect on the scene of His crucifixion in grief without also standing in awe of His Divinity, basking in the glory of His resurrection and anticipating the joy of meeting Him. The daughters of Jerusalem were mistaken to weep over Him! That is why they heard Him say: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children" (Lk 23:28).
Neither can we ever imagine the cross with feelings of joy that are not tinged with great sadness! To do so would be to have lost the meaning of the cross and forgotten the cleansing of our initial sins and we would resemble those who witnessed Jesus' crucifixion mockingly and carelessly.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice" (Jn 16:20). We do not weep like the ignorant women who saw the Lord as man dying for Himself, and we do not rejoice with the vain world so that we do not resemble the crucifiers!
We have met Christ in Gethsemane and realize that fellowship in suffering is a deeper fellowship than any other. Since the hour of that encounter we are sure that our sufferings are counted with Christ's as an offering of love and joy, and a sharing in the glory of His Divinity. Why do we now say that we must suffer, be sad and weep?
The First Point of Meeting: The Sufferings of the Cross
Yes, we must meet with the cross. Great sadness and depression are stored in it for us, because in it we find a continual source of weeping over sin. Who can approach the cross and not be aware of the weight of his sins?
We do not weep for Christ on the cross, but weep for those who have not benefited up till now from the shame of the cross and Christ's suffering!
We do not suffer purely because Christ suffered, but we suffer because Christ suffered and yet we are still living lives careless of that.
We are not sad because Christ drank the bitterest cup, but we are sad because we took this so lightly and are still drinking of life's pleasures.
We are not alarmed when we imagine how they pressed the wreath of thorns onto Christ's head in mockery of His royalty, so that the thorns pierced his brow and drew blood that ran down his face. But we are alarmed when we remember this and know that we are still running after worldly glories, seeking honor in worldly positions!
We are not afraid at the image of the nails being hammered into His hands and feet on the tree! Rather, we are afraid when we think of it and remember that we continue to stretch out our hands to steal, to pay bribes, to forge signatures, to harm the innocent, and are still doing so.
This is what it means to share in the suffering of the cross, where the cross becomes a place of weeping and suffering, and a source of sorrow in repentance for living.
"As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting ... for godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death" (2 Cor 7:9, 10).
We are also called to become partners in Christ's suffering, not in the sense that we bear sin instead of Him or share His grief, that is not the meaning at all. It is in the sense that we are ready, like Him, to accept the suffering that comes with the message, the persecution of truth and the restraint of mission. All of it is counted for us as the completion of Christ's sufferings, or as a small share in the grief of the cross: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col 1:24).
Therefore in remembering his sufferings we are invited not to weep for Him but to weep with Him by carrying our crosses and following Him, and adding our sufferings to His!
When the Church reads the gospel accounts of the crucifixion in a somber manner let us remember that we are invited to follow in His footsteps, to be scorned the way He was scorned, persecuted like Him and to depart "bearing the abuse he endured" (Heb 13:13).
In this way we suffer and become familiar with Christ's sufferings and the shame of the cross. The experience will either produce in us the grief to repent and be saved, or grief over the lost sheep.
The Second Point of Meeting: The Joy of the Cross
It is not really a second point because it is a part of the first. Sharing our sufferings through the cross basically exists in joy and consolation.
There are two ways in which we grieve and suffer. The grief of repentance leads to an unprecedented joy which the Bible describes as being "without regret" because it is the joy of meeting Christ in resurrection and eternal life. Alternatively, we may suffer to serve or preach. The suffering of preaching the gospel brings unprecedented comfort because it completes the message of the cross through which we become qualified to be disciples or followers: "For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but were afflicted at every turn - fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more" (2 Cor 7:4-7).
A Profound Thought
Indeed, as a man cannot reach the depth of the sufferings of the cross no matter how keen his repentance or how sacrificial his service, so the joys of the cross also are unfathomable. All we know is that the more we endure the pains of the cross in our lives the greater the ensuing comfort: "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too" (2 Cor 1:5).
The reader should realize that this principle holds true whether in pain or in joy, so he should not be alarmed if his suffering increases, because pain has no limits. But he should realize at the same time that through the increasing pain comes the greater joy beyond description!
If great pain causes a feeling of death then the feeling of death leads to awareness of the life of glory.
The reader should pay great attention to this, because if the pain does not lead to an accompanying joy and comfort in the present then his suffering is not a sharing in Christ's sufferings or in the pains of living.
Beware, dear reader, of accepting pain in which you do not find comfort, because it is the suffering caused by sin that bequeaths trouble, anxiety and corrupted grief, and it ends in sickness and perdition. If you light the candle of your consciousness and search the depths of this pernicious pain you will inevitably find the root of it in your ego: selfishness, anger, envy, hatred, pride, or fear of death. These are bitter roots that feed the ego with the poison of corrupted pains.
Know that in Christ there is no pain without comfort, and no comfort without pain.
Christ planted His body in the midst of pain and produced out of it the joyful fruits that bring life.
"Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the sons of men!" (Ps 107:8)
Brothers, do not suffer without joy, as did the ignorant daughters of Jerusalem and do not be joyful without pain as were the crucifiers and mockers.
Hail to the Cross! The power for salvation without regret.
Hail to the Cross! The power for preaching the gospel and the comfort of ministering.
Pain, hemorrhage, thirst, dizziness, choking and surrendering the spirit.
Finally the wheat seed fell according to its own will and died!
Now I have come to know the meaning of love
And of victory over the world.
O Master, I offer you my strength in honor of Your bleeding wounds.
Under Your bleeding feet I place my health and youth.
In Your wounded hands I place my riches.
In honor of Your thirst I will fast.
In honor of Your sufferings I will be joyful in my sickness.
In memory of Your death I will give up my life.
I will give it up in secret, or in the open if required.
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