The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
When I was pastoring a wonderful church family in east Texas, we always had great dynamic Vacation Bible Schools. One year we were doing dramatized lessons from the Life of Christ. A climactic day was the one where we reenacted the crucifixion. We had it all planned out. A young adult guy would portray Jesus. He would carry a cross down the center isle of the worship center while soldiers took him part way. He would stumble and another actor would portray Simon of Cyrene and carry it the rest of the way up to the baptistry. There, in the baptistry, which was centered on the stage and up high, they would portray his crucifixion and he would utter the seven last words and give up the ghost. It was to be quite a moving visual and it was successfully done.
However, at the last minute, the VBS director realized we had left our characters. We needed people who would taunt and ridicule Jesus on his way to the cross. She grabbed some of us and had us throw on some make-shift costumes and we did it the way it was supposed to be done. We taunted him for claiming to be King of the Jews. We yelled, “He saved others, why can’t he save himself.” I was one of the taunters and it wasn’t pleasant. As I mocked the character, it made me feel dirty. It was very uncomfortable. But it had to be done.
Later, it was time for the closing program. I was in charge of that. As the children came into the worship center, a cute little 3-year-old boy named Damien Amos motioned for me to come to him. I figured he was going to ask if he could help with the offering or pick a song. As I leaned over to him, he wound up his arm and slugged me on the side of my face saying, “YOU WERE MEAN TO JESUS!”
I couldn’t argue. It was a horrible thing to do. As we read in Mark 15 and the other Gospels about the horrifying pictures of the soldiers whipping and striking Jesus and mocking him; people spiting on him and ridiculing him as a fraud; the soldiers laying his body on a cruel wooden cross and driving nails through his hands and feet we find some relief in being able to criticize those awful people.
However, as we view this horrifying scene of torture and murder, we must realize that the folks who taunted and killed him were exact representations of us. It was for our sins and failures that Jesus went to the cross. It was for our crimes that he received those stripes and nails. I was ridiculing him every time someone spit or shouted at him and so were you.
But it was also his amazing love that sent him there.
We are the reason he gave his life.
This Sunday we will conclude our series Death March (events leading to the cross) with a message titled Heaven’s Own Crucified based on Mark 15:16-47. While we celebrate Palm Sunday and Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, we will also examine the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. I hope you will join us for this very special message that will prepare us for Resurrection Sunday next week.