And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross!" So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. (Mark 15:29-31)
Reading from "Reliving the Passion" by Walter Wangerin Jr.
Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.
No, there never was such sorrow as this. And the fools who pass by jeering merely reveal an iniquitous ignorance. Passer-by indeed? Untouched, absolutely insensitive: here are the unbelievers of the world.
The chief priests, on the other hand, are those who should know better, having learned the Word of God, but who seek herein nothing other than the proofs of their own power. Therefore they see only so much sorrow as they think they have themselves imposed, and they are (like all ecclesiastics seeking authority) satisfied by the crucifixion. Those crucified with him know no more than the priests (why should they?) and find in him but a little diversion on their way to death and perdition. The sorrow of the Messiah is nothing to these; so they mock.
But we, who in steadfast faith do hear his cry - what sort of sorrow do we see? How painful is the mockery?
Well, if he is innocent, the mockery wounds him with tolerable wounds since he can wrap himself in the dignity and self-pity of a misunderstood goodness. If he is innocent, the crucifixion makes him a better man after all, since his sacrifice is the very extremity of selfless love. But if he is guilty, the mockery is accurate and right, and its wounds are an intolerable anguish.
Guilty? Is this thinkable, that Jesus is guilty? No, it is not thinkable. It is as unthinkable as the pain such guilt must cause - but it is true! There are moments right now when Jesus looks down on the sick derision of the people at his feet and he agrees: It is right. I am worse that false priests and outright criminals.
Maybe none shall see with more terrible clarity the sorrow of our Lord than the apostle Paul: "For our sake," he writes, "God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). He does not write: "To bear our guilt," as though a good man became better by substituting himself for our punishment. Severely, Paul writes, "God made him to be sin." Jesus has become a bad man, the worst of all men, the badness, in fact, of our sin," as though Jesus and sin are essentially separate things, the one a weight upon the other for a while. No, but "to be sin": Jesus is sin! Jesus is the thing itself!
Today, Friday, between the third hour and the ninth, beneath a blackening sky, Jesus has become the rebellion of humankind against its God.
His is, therefore, rightly crucified. He bows before his deserving. There is nothing to ease his sorrow - no, not even some sweet internal sense of innocence. However mistaken the motives of his enemies, Jesus belongs on the cross because sin deserves - sin requires! - the complete, judicial damnation of the Deity.
And yet, and yet: this same Jesus is also the Holy One of the God, now as much as ever before - because now he is completely obedient to the Father. Holy, he must hate sin with an unyielding hatred. Behold, then, and see a sorrow unlike any other sorrow in the universe: that right now Jesus hates himself with an unyielding hatred.
He is, in his own eyes, vile. He cannot console himself with the goodness of his sacrifice or the wickedness of his detractors, passer-by, priests, criminals - because they are right! The wicked ones are right.
This is, perhaps the second bitterest swallow in the cup of suffering which he drinks.
The worst is yet to come.
Jesus didn't just take my punishment, as if that would be a just, but he actually became sin. The one who never knew sin...all the sin of the world, past, present, and future.
All of it, all of it!
I cannot begin to comprehend it. To bear the sin of the world, and then to feel, experience the Father turning his back on him. The one that had never been separated from the Father from eternity past...ever
All for love!
Amazing love, amazing grace!!