The crucifixion is at the center of the Christian faith. The cross, and all that surrounds it, is a reminder of God’s incredible love for an incredibly sinful people. It is a scene I often revisit in my mind, but struggle to truly envision. Each moment of each scene is so full of importance, yet when it happened, the whole affair passed by, seemingly unnoticed. The crowd did not seem to fully understand the significance of Jesus until the lone centurion realized with total surprise, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
How could such a monumental event be carried out so abruptly, so ordinarily?
Crucifixion was a routine punishment for capital offenses. The soldiers had done this many times before. Pilate customarily released a prisoner during this high holy season of the Jews, so clearly there had been trouble-makers and rabble-rousers before. In many ways, all the proceedings could have been construed as quite ordinary. Indeed, almost everyone seemed to act as though this riot in the streets was merited, and the punishment of this man Jesus was necessary. With what ease they led Him out to crucify Him!
That is perhaps what strikes me the most; it was all done with such ease. Sure, there was a lot of fuss being made, but Pilate’s little twinge of conscience and hesitance is a drop in the bucket compared to the momentum of sinful human inclination and action.
It was simple: “They led him out to crucify him” (Mark 15:20). The Jews were blinded by envy, the crowd roused up by their self-righteous leaders, the battalion just carrying out typical orders—each person there seemed to act without consideration of the weight of what they were doing.
You and I are right there with them. With such ease we lead Him out to crucify Him. With what ease we fall into envy, mockery, deceit, slander, crowd-pleasing, derision, abuse, reviling, and false witness. How quickly we dress it all up in flimsy pretendings of justice, righteousness, mercy, patriotism, duty, humor, and nonchalance.
We were all in on it: the council of the Jews, the rioting crowd in the streets, the battalion. Even the two criminals beside Him joined in condemning Him. In his remarkable hymn “Come Sinners View the Lamb of God,” John Newton wrote:
His thorns and nails pierce through my heart
In every groan I bear a part.
“Yes, we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us have turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
God has loved us with an astonishing love. One of the thieves who mocked Jesus also entered into paradise with Him that very day (Luke 23:43). And the centurion who crucified Him, also confessed Him as God. You and I, guilty sinners also there at the cross, find the wellspring of life, forgiveness, and peace in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God!
Written by Caleb Faires