The Roman and The King: Executing Jesus
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
Recently, I was watching The Passion of the Christ with a group of friends (I know you do this every Friday night with your friends, too,) and the woman sitting next to me, through her tears and sniffling asked, “How can those men torture Jesus?” This simple question began echoing deep in my spirit, and I haven’t been able to let it go. How could these men be capable of carrying out this torture? This crucifixion was violent, brutal, and bloody. In modern day standards, this sort of action is impermissible, but during the rule of Ancient Rome, crucifixion was an important method of capital punishment and a method implemented frequently.
Here are a few facts about Ancient Rome I hope will put the soldiers’ actions into context:
- Crucifixion was not only used as a warning to dissuade others from becoming public (political or religious) agitators or criminals, but was also designed to be the most painful, slow, and humiliating death possible.
- The Roman Empire came to power because of the violent force of its soldiers.
- Honor was the most important value to the Roman soldiers. One of the best ways to gain honor was by representing their obedience and loyalty to their empire.
I am not excusing the soldiers’ actions, but in their minds there was nothing different about Jesus’ execution; His death would be weighted just the same as the two criminals on either side of our King.
Think back to Jesus’ suffering, or return to the Gospels and reread through the experience. Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest friends, arrested, denied by Peter, mocked and beaten on multiple occasions, flogged, and forced to carry His cross through the city of Jerusalem. The soldiers were present for every event, or at least a part of it in some way. Bottom line: The soldiers slowly murdered Jesus.
As the soldiers hoisted the cross He was now nailed to, Jesus grants these men forgiveness. Place yourself in a similar situation – would you be able to forgive the person attacking you? I know I would have an extremely difficult time extending the same hand of graciousness as Jesus did.
If our Savior and King can forgive the violent men who murdered Him, why do we often feel isolated in our sin? Why do we feel as if He could never forgive what we’ve done? There’s absolutely NOTHING that can separated us from our King. Paul writes, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
The only thing hindering us from accepting His love and forgiveness is our own stubborn pride. Even the brutal Roman men realized the power of Christ Jesus and humbled themselves: “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).
Next Sunday is Easter, a celebration of our King who conquered death and sin and saved our spirits. Is there anything in your own life that is currently holding you back from accepting His love and forgiveness? Remember, there is nothing you can do that will keep God from pursuing you. Humble yourself before the King, and praise His greatness and what He has done for you!