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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Watching From the Sidelines As Jesus Carries His Cross - How Would You React?

By Douglas Sparks

I'm not a seasoned globe trotter, barely been around the block. But in my mind, I can visit any place without a passport or a ticket. Our imaginations can take us anywhere, and to any time.

Trip along with me for a few thousand miles and a few thousand years. Jerusalem. About 30 AD. I want you to stand along the dusty pathway of the Via Dolorosa. How you got there doesn't matter, but what you see is momentous.

You are squeezed into a raffish crowd, all of you leaning at a 45 degree angle, trying to see down the clogged street. Everyone has been jostling, hurrying through town toward tasks that they call important. Even so, they willingly postpone their passing, hoping for something that might break their dull daily routine. There's a commotion; shouts tossed back and forth. What are we waiting for? This better be worth interrupting my plans...

The disruption rounds into view, and the crowd shrinks back a step as it comes abreast. A loose perimeter of Roman soldiers pushes any encroachers back to the sidelines. In the midst of them is a man, but who he might be is impossible to say; his face is bruised and swollen too badly to identify him. This kind of brutality is not uncommon. The Romans call it "deterrent" - as if all Jews were criminals deserving punishment. This is a death march, for our benefit. We've seen it before, but there is a different tension in the crowd today.

You're on the spot, Traveler, at a crossroads in history. Here's the important question: how do you react to being in this scene? There are several ways you could respond. Let me name a few:

Your mind is naturally filled with questions. You could start asking around: Who is he? Where did he come from? Why is he condemned? What did he do? Someone says "He's a good man" - but they don't execute men for being good... Will you be satisfied with quick answers, or do you want to know the whole story? And if you get down to the truth, what will you do with it? Traveler, is that the same way you treat this Jesus in the 21st century? With curiosity? Is He just a historical figure to investigate? What have you done with the Truth?

Or maybe you just turned away - disgusted by what you saw. This is an interruption of your orderly life, and you are repulsed by the grotesqueness of this. He's suffering unjustly for his principles, but he didn't have to go to this extreme. You can deny that his message has relevance to you. He's too radical; he's pushed things too far and isolated himself. Just ignore him and he'll go away. When you're back at home, today, does the severity of Christ's actions still repel you? Do you reject Him because His life was not sanitized and acceptable by your standards? If you close your eyes, does He disappear?

Perhaps compassion moved you as you stood by the road and watched him. You wanted to intervene, stop the pain, make things right. Even when you reached out to help, the elbows of the mob interfered. Then you tried to offer your support, but he didn't seem to listen. You'd step up and carry his cross if they let you... Could it be that you're approaching Jesus that way now? The life that you live says that His sacrifice wasn't completely enough; you've got to prove how good you are. Earn your way to heaven - every day. Better...More...Harder...

Fascinated - that may have been your reaction to this ragged man. So you followed along behind Him from a safe distance. Close enough to see what happens, but not wanting to get involved. Certainly no eye contact. You don't want to risk association; that could be embarrassing, or even dangerous. He'll die soon; it won't really matter. It's much more comfortable being the Traveler, isn't it? No commitments, no entanglements. Relationships are so stifling! Especially with a dead man...

You spit and curse at him. Why does he seem to keep turning up at the wrong moments in your life? You never asked for a "savior". You don't need anyone's help. The anger bubbling out of you has been simmering for a long, long time. He has no right to intrude on you! How can He presume to know your needs? Tell me, why does an expression of pure love make you so angry? If you really don't need anyone, why are you so threatened by this Jesus? You say you've turned your back on Him; why are you looking over your shoulder?

There is one more response you could choose. You are compelled, propelled along in the wake of his passing by. Step by step you stay behind him, all the way to the bitter end. Through the nails, through the agony, through the earthquake. You prove that He is who He says He is. You fall flat on your face before Him. Right at His feet is where you can rest, Traveler. For two millennia. For eternity.

by Doug Sparks - Copyright 2008

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