Prayers today: Lord, by shedding his blood for us, your Son, Jesus Christ, established the paschal mystery. In your goodness, make us holy and watch over us always. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Lord, by the suffering of Christ your Son you have saved us all from the death we inherited from sinful Adam. By the law of nature we have borne the likeness of his manhood. May the sanctifying power of grace help us to put on the likeness of our Lord in heaven, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (18.1~19.42)
Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your king?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that he said, 'I am the King of the Jews'." Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written." (John 19:15-22)
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
Crucifixion was in use among the Persians, Seleucids, Carthaginians, and Romans from about the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD. Alexander the Great is reputed to have crucified 2000 survivors from his siege of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Can we imagine what might have happened to the course of history had Alexander been captured during one of his numerous battles, and subsequently crucified? The thought of Alexander the Great being crucified almost boggles the historical imagination because of his greatness as a general. His potential greatness would have immediately come to nothing. Let us take a second hypothesis. Julius Caesar was captured on two occasions by pirates, and on the second occasion his captors were the feared Cilicians. He was subsequently released on a ransom. He then returned, defeated and captured them, and proceeded to crucify them. Imagine if the pirates had crucified Caesar instead, while he was their captive? Not only would it have been the abrupt end of a most distinguished career, but it would have been one of history’s most resounding humiliations. Alexander the Great, and then Julius Caesar, both crucified by their enemies — the thought is almost preposterous. In our Gospel passage today we have the cold, hard fact of the Lord of lords and King of kings being led out of the Holy City of Jerusalem to the Rock called the Skull. He carried on his shoulders the beam to which he would be nailed. So weak was he that at one point a passer-by was commandeered to carry the wood by his side to the place of crucifixion. There he was crucified between two other criminals. A sign was nailed to the head of the cross, written in the three languages of that part of the world — Latin, Greek and Hebrew, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” It was death in disgrace, a total rejection, and at that point it seemed to be the utter end of everything. But no. It is perhaps the most amazing phenomenon in history and in religion that this Crucified One would within a few days be acknowledged as the Lord of lords, and King of kings. Alexander and Caesar, for all their earthly glory, remain but dust and ashes, and who is to say where they stand now, on the other side of the grave! Not so, Jesus the Crucified One.
Let us place ourselves in that forlorn scene outside the City (John 19:15-22). We stand with a small and heartbroken group. His holy, strong and all-suffering mother, his beloved disciple, and a few other ardent disciples among the women, all are watching. The stark and bare rock stands before us as we hear the thud of the nails and the wood being hoisted to its position. Alexander, Caesar, and so many others of history had their moments of victory and greatness. The greatest of them all is before us, now hanging on the Cross. He is plunged in unheard-of suffering and disgrace. He is engaged in the most decisive of all battles, one on which the prospects of the whole world hangs. He is struggling with titanic forces, for all of hell is beating down upon him, and all of this world’s sin. In the jeers of the religious leaders who see their supposed rival sinking to a terrible death, is heard the laughter of Satan doing all he can to drown Christ in suffering. The Messiah is being done to death. As this most admirable of men — whom the very centurion would soon call a son of God — descended into the darkest depths, a great light was appearing on the distant horizon of the gloom of the world. The field was being won, and the sword of victory was obedience amid humiliation and suffering. Mankind’s champion was himself making up for all the sins of mankind. He stood in the middle of the field, as it were, as the storm bellowed above. He opened wide his powerful arms and asked his loving Father that the sin of the world strike him instead. That it did, and like a powerful bolt of lightning the sin of the world struck him with a force that cannot be measured. It hit him and he received its force with a full and loving heart, and with that the lightning was spent. It had done its work in putting to death the Messiah, so that all of his brothers might live now and forever. The Messiah lay dead, having promised that very soon, indeed on the third day, he would rise again with a new life that he would share with us all. He expiated for the sin of the world, the greatest of victories.
Let us all our lives contemplate the King of kings and Lord of lords hanging on the Cross. In that great event the world was saved, and man was given the lesson of all lessons. If we want to know the secret to being victorious in life, we must look not to the Alexanders and to the Caesars, but to one man, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews and the Lord of the world. Let us aim in life to know, love and serve Jesus Christ our Lord and God, and in this way come to see and enjoy him forever in heaven. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the image of the unseen God, the only way to the Father, the only name by which man can be saved. His throne is the Cross. Let us take our stand with him there, on Calvary, next to this one and only throne.