Oh man... what did I do yesterday? It seems like a terrible nightmare. I am awake now - covered in sweat, trembling and a headache like I had drunk a gallon of wine last night. I was caught up in something terrible. Something demonic - a mob. How did this all go so sideways and so quickly?
A mere few days ago, the streets were abuzz with news of this Messiah - they said he would be the one who would lead us in victory to free ourselves from these damn Romans. To bring about the promised rule and reign of YWH.
At first, I didn’t believe the hype, you know, yet another wannabe messiah - who was the last one? Yeah - that guy Barabbas. That guy ended up in Pilates prison in pretty short order. Well, for a while.
This Jesus guy comes riding in on a donkey. We laughed and cheered as his triumphant entry on the back of a donkey was making a mockery of Rome’s annual military parade.
I was caught up in it all. The joy, the laughter and the hope that maybe this Jesus fella might be the one. He didn’t look like much, really, but his reputation for healings, signs, and wonders had everyone abuzz with Jesus Fever. I had it too, and we all had a great celebration.
Later that night, word spread that this Jesus was arrested in a garden just outside the city. Poof, just like that, another would-be saviour to add to the long list of wannabe’s before him.
SHIT! I knew better. I shouldn’t have believed the hype.... and yet, there was something that seemed different about him. Something that gave me cause to risk hoping again.
Surprise, Su -fricken-prise! Hope crushed again by these filthy Romans - ah, but I should have known as much. I feel so foolish. I feel angry. Angry at everyone and everything - Rome, this Jesus guy... and mad as hell at YWH.
You know what? I’m not just angry. I’m furious. My soul is ablaze in rage. I’m sick and tired of living under the greasy thumb of Rome and all these snake oil salesmen peddling fantasies of liberation, hope, and faith - such bullshit!!
So, I heard that this Jesus guy was to be taken to the authorities. I thought, “good. Make an example of him.” It’s cruel for these kinds of guys to peddle their false (sigh) hope. I knew I had to be there. I had to see this guy get his.
The trial was wild - the courtyard was packed. The crowd was electric - waves of energy coursing through the mob. It seemed to become something much more than the total of us all. It took on a blood-thirsty life of its own. I (deep sigh) was very much a part of it. Caught up in the collective rage spewing its sulphurous provocations and taunts.
At one point, the officials took this Jesus guy away, and in a while, they brought him back - beaten to a pulp. The crowd cheered as this blood-drenched man was paraded before us. But... it wasn’t good enough.
The Romans didn’t get it. They couldn’t understand the fomenting rage. This rage couldn’t be assuaged without violence - without murder. They tried a bait and switch - a swap. To release Jesus or another revolutionary, Barabbas. In our mounting rage, we weren’t to be distracted. The atmosphere had been chummed with self-righteousness, dashed hopes over and over again, helplessness, religious piety and political rhetoric - nothing quite like these to ignite the collective rage. It burned so hot, so fast... it wouldn’t be quenched by anything less than this Jesus’ last drop of blood.
Pilate, the ol’ boy, looked baffled. He looked genuinely frightened. He’d seen angry mobs before and knew all too well that not dealing with it could lead to full-on mass rebellion. The powers that be in Rome would definitely not be happy.
Pilate addressed the mob and asked what to do with Jesus. In what seemed like an ecstatic climax of collective rage, in a chorus of disfigured humanity, we screamed:
“CRUCIFY HIM!! CRUCIFY HIM!!”
Pilate recoiled by the force of the demonic response. As I reflect on his action, it strikes me that a seasoned Roman leader would not be phased by such vicious sentiment. This was different. This, too, should have been a clue, but by this time, I was already lost in my own rage and caught up in the toxicity and intoxication of the mob.
Jesus was taken away by the guards - to be prepared for the party. The mob lingered, raging together, stoking each other with fresh fire from the likes of the depths of Gehenna. We laughed and cheered as we recounted seeing Jesus after being beaten and scourged. His body was deeply marred and blood-soaked.
I remember a hush. Then the crowd began to murmur with word that the prisoners, along with this Jesus, were being led out of the city - to the hill they called the skull. The parade of misery had begun - and I wanted a front-row seat. Still angry as hell - enflamed by the mob and my own pain. Somebody had to pay. Somebody had to pay big time for how I’m feeling, how I suffer.
I remember when I saw him - it was a cauldron of horror, pleasure, rage and a slightly bitter taste of satisfaction - that finally justice was going to be served.
Struggling to carry his beam, Jesus looked like they had laid another beating on him. The pièce de résistance was a crown of thorns they had woven and jammed upon his brow. So pathetic, so weak. How could I have ever thought this guy was worthy of my hope? My worship?
I screamed insults and jeers ‘til I was blue in the face. I wasn’t alone as I saw others with faces contorted and grotesque, spewing their venom too. We reached the Skull, and they threw Jesus down on the beams, lashed his hands and feet to the timber and began to drive the spikes into his hands and feet. His screams of agony seemed to bring the mob to a crescendo.
Then the Romans, just before they hoisted his cross, nailed a sign to the cross that read “King of the Jews.” I couldn’t believe it was even possible - the mob lost its mind to a whole new level of rage. “No King but Caesar! No King but Caesar!!!” I can’t believe it. Oh man, I was screaming it too. Screaming my allegiance to the empire. The same empire that has been brutally oppressing us for what seems like forever. What was I thinking?!
We watched in delight while we joked and jeered as Jesus hung there in agony. Struggling for each breath as his life slipped toil-fully away.
It's all so surreal. I am awake now - covered in sweat, trembling and a headache like I had drunk a gallon of wine last night.
Through this pounding headache, I can’t get Jesus' dying words out of my head. This - the only vivid memory from the day before - as he hung in agony, with people hurling insults and vulgarities - he kept crying over and over again:
“Father, forgive them. They aren’t in their right mind. They don’t get it. Please forgive them.” And with his last breath, I heard him say, “It is finished.”
These words are etched into my brain - even the morning after they assail my mind over and over - thundering in my heart.
OH MY GOD. WHAT HAVE I DONE??
What was I thinking? - all I wanted was revenge, someone to pay for my crappy lot in life. For everything that should have gone my way and didn’t. In some strange way, I actually believed we were doing God a favour by killing this Jesus. Someone had to pay, and yesterday - it was this Jesus.
But I just can’t get his words out of my mind. In the midst of agony, jeers, insults, accusations - the vitriol of my own and the collective rage and violence - he prayed for us. He prayed for me, “Father forgive him. He isn’t in his right mind. He doesn’t get it. Please forgive him.” Over and over again.
OH MY GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE??
My worst. My rage. My violence.
And he responded with ... (heaving sob)...