In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Luke 23: 1-25 and John 19: 1-16
Even among his most defiant enemies, Jesus extends his outstretched arms of love.
Imagine standing among the throngs who were demanding that a criminal previously thrown in prison for insurrection and murder be set free and instead replaced by Jesus, the One who previously restored life and miraculously freed those who were shackled by disease, poverty, injustice, and demon possession. The crowds were filled with enemies of Jesus who stirred up the chant to “Crucify him!” and all forms of godly reason and fair rationale were gone with the shouts of hatred scattered by the wind.
Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus? This made no sense whatsoever, first to Herod, then to Pilate, but among the enemy crowd it was the best alternative replacement they could demand. So the leaders surrendered Jesus to the will of the crowd. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” is the best response of all, spoken freely, generously, and open-heartedly by Jesus.
Enemies are such because of perceptions or misperceptions held firmly and one-sidedly. Active opposition or blatant hostility doesn’t just come out of nowhere…it originates from deeply held convictions about why a person or philosophy would be hated or despised. To have an enemy is to create a tall barrier which is impenetrable and impossible to navigate unilaterally. Only in relationship can an enemy be won (back) to allegiance and alliance without creating further damage.
Those who kept shouting “Crucify him!” had no justification for their demand, except prejudice. They didn’t like what they saw in Jesus of Nazareth, and the accumulation of their pent up frustration reached a boiling point unsustainable by the leaders. The ground swell of opposition had gained such strong momentum, that the entrance into that first Holy Week was cascading upon the disciples and all other devoted but now depleted followers of Jesus. They were grossly outnumbered by the haters in the pack of wolves now descending on the humble Lamb of God, to flog, beat, and crown him with thorns.
There is little anyone can do to fight defiant hostility and unreasonable predisposition. So, as the leaders surrendered to the crowds, Jesus simultaneously surrenders to the Father. Instead of putting up a fight, he willingly accepts the way of suffering, beginning with the physical carrying of his designated, splinter-filled, heavy-burdened cross up the hill to the place called The Skull. There would be his final breath of life, brought on because of the words of the enemies who called for his crucifixion.
Behold the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; believe in the Gospel which was hated by the enemies of God; belong to those who were in the crowd and stood up for Jesus; become defiant for Truth and Love without hatred, prejudice, hostility or damnation ever on your lips or in your heart toward any other.