Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Flogging was the preliminary punishment before every Roman execution. The usual weapon used was a short leather whip braided with leather thongs of variable lengths. On these strips were small iron balls and sharp pieces of sheep bones, intended to cut human flesh into ribbons. Normally, the accused man was stripped of his clothing, with his hands tied tightly to an upright post. As the soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the skin would open revealing the underlying muscles, a vivid picture of the torment Jesus suffered before his death.
After Jesus was scourged, he was taken from Caiaphas to the praetorium, to be judged by Pontius Pilate, a Roman official who had the power to crucify Jesus. The Jews claimed they could not use crucifixion as the sentence because the Law dictated stoning for the offense of blasphemy. Crucifixion was necessary to fulfill the scripture, indicating the Son of Man must be lifted, just as Moses lifted the serpent in the desert.
Pilate finding no crime against Jesus, once again brought Jesus out to the crowd, and proclaimed, “Behold the man!” (Ecce homo). The famous words of Pilate reverberate throughout time pointing first to the disfigured and bloodied body of Jesus who took upon himself a punishment he did not deserve. Pilate’s words refer to the broken body of Jesus, but little did he realize, he describes the whole of the human experience immersed in sin.
Look what sin has done to every person. The very life seeps away daily from the inflicted wounds of sin and evil. Look hard at the ugliness of sin, its many cuts, and disfigurations. Look at what Christ has assumed to bring his people back from death to life.
All hope resides in the beholding of the man, Jesus, who has taken away our sin and death, reversing its effects from fatal to transitory. For those who behold the man of Jesus in faith, there is a reassurance that suffering and death can be endured because Christ has shown us the path to follow.
For those devoid of faith, they refuse to behold the man. They will repeatedly draw attention to the suffering and death continually happening throughout the world with no cessation. The beholding of Jesus has done nothing to alleviate the ills of humanity. For them, there can only be hopelessness, because sin and death have conquered them, for they do not understand the meaning of Calvary.
The many faithful who do trust in Jesus, are not blind to the misery and disfiguration sin has caused. They know they are not immune to its effects either, but realize the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary becomes the template for their own lives. By Jesus’ death and resurrection, sin and death have been conquered. His followers remain hopeful by uniting themselves to Christ, their suffering and death will lead to life as well. It must be this way, because God never impinges upon a person’s free will, even if the free choice is disastrous. Accepting suffering and death in union with Christ is the only way in which their suffering and death can be defeated. When disciples ascend their mount of death, as Jesus first had done, the promise of eternal life will be fulfilled.
The Mount of Calvary once only found in the Middle East is now present in every corner of the world. There are as many mounts of death as there are people. An individual Calvary can be seen in every place where people suffer and die because of sin and evil. However, for those who gaze on the man who saved us, their moment of Calvary will pass. Just as Jesus was lifted, he will be with all those who have been lifted later and welcome them into a new life with his Father.
Behold the Man who takes away the sins of the world!