Pilate says it first: “I find no fault in this Man” (Lk 23:4, NKJV). Later, a criminal near Jesus says to a fellow criminal, “we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong” (v. 41). After Jesus dies, a centurion says, “Certainly this man was innocent” (v. 47).
But it is too late. Jesus is sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. As a victim of an unjust Roman criminal justice system, Jesus’ life does not matter. The crowd cries, “Crucify him!” (v. 21) and they do.
The Roman soldiers order Simon from Cyrene, in northern Africa, to carry his cross. Can you place yourself in Simon’s shoes, this black man who is passing by Jerusalem when he is stopped and detained by the authorities without a cause? Can you imagine the fear Simon must feel, knowing what is at stake if he doesn’t comply? Realizing that he might join Jesus on the cross at Calvary if he resists? He remembers “the talk” he grew up with about doing whatever the officials say. Simon is lucky. When Jesus breathes his last, as far as we know, Simon lives.
On this Friday, Christ’s followers grieve. We grieve the pain that Jesus experiences on the cross at the hands of the unjust. We grieve the ways that the world continues to inflict its pain on God’s children. We grieve tragic deaths and losses that leave us empty and confused. On this day, as we hear Jesus cry out, may we share our grief with God and pray with all our might.
What grieves your heart today? Take this list to God in prayer.
God, when we are brokenhearted, grant us your peace and your presence. Help us commit our spirit to you. Amen.