Christianity, Religion

“So Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.’” Luke 23:3

“The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.” Mark 15:16-20

“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And Pilate said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!’  So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” John 19:14-15.

 “And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink… And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “‘THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’” Matthew 27:33-34, 37.

Coronation: (noun) the act or ceremony of crowning a king, queen, or other sovereign.

The climax of Holy Week, and of the Christian calendar, is Good Friday—“good” in this sense meaning holy. This marks the day on which Christ was crucified and died, offering Himself as the sacrificial atonement to save humanity from sin. It is easy to recognize the holy nature of this day: God’s love is readily on display as He proved He would spare nothing—not even His Son—in His effort to redeem His fallen creation, but the price that had to be paid to achieve that redemption defies any potential grasp of the mind. We know this story, and we see this moment coming, but we are caught off guard—just as the disciples were—when we reach this point in the gospel narratives. Nothing prepares us for the excruciating torment of Good Friday. We see the pain and suffering experienced, the blood and ripped flesh, the jeering and the mocking all contrasted with the humility and obedience of Christ. It is easy to read of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of what He endured. This day is holy because it is when our Savior died for us, but it is also holy for another reason: this was the day when He came into His glory; the day He was crowned and took His throne. His crucifixion was not only a sacrificial death; it was a coronation ceremony.

The first clue that the crucifixion was Christ’s moment of glory is found in Mark 10. James and John approach Jesus and ask to be with Him, to be on His right and left sides, when He comes into His glory. Christ tells them that they are not ready for such a request, because they are not ready to endure what He will suffer in that moment—death. They do not understand that Christ’s crowning moment will be on a cross.  Christ goes on to tell them that the spots on His right and left are not His to give; they have already been reserved. At the moment when Christ is on the cross, the moment that James and John requested to be with Him, only John is there to witness the event.

The events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion are presented with imagery that reflects a king’s coronation, and this is intentional.  For Christ to receive capital punishment, the case against Him had to be presented to the Romans as treason and rebellion. Thus, a case was presented that Christ was claiming to be the King of the Jews. When questioned by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, Christ never denied the allegations. He was, in fact, the King of Israel, descended from David. Hearing these charges against Christ, the Roman soldiers guarding Him mocked Him by dressing Him in purple—the color of royalty—and giving Him a crown made of thorns, along with a large reed to be His scepter. In some of the gospel accounts, the soldiers kneeled before Christ and yelled out “Hail the King of the Jews!” before beating Him and spitting upon Him. The humble King, who rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, took every blow. Though His accusers and captors attempted to discredit Him and humiliate Him, each step they took helped bring Christ one step closer to the moment of His crowning glory.

After being clothed in purple by the Romans, and crowned with thorns, Christ held court with representatives of two different governments. He spoke at length with Pilate, the Roman official, as well as King Herod, the tetrarch who ruled over Galilee. The issues surrounding Jesus ever repaired the state relations between Pilate and Herod.  Christ was paraded through streets packed with people who were mocking and cursing Him—yet they were there to see Him nonetheless.

The coronation ceremony reached its peak when Christ was placed upon His throne—the cross. This was the moment Christ was born for; this was the moment He was exalted—high and lifted up, so that He could draw all men to Himself.  At His right and left were two criminals, guilty of offenses worthy of death, being executed along with the innocent Son of God. These two unnamed criminals were with Christ, in places of prominence, in the moment of His exaltation. They were with Jesus when He was fulfilling what had been building up for millennia as God’s salvific plan unfolded.  Two criminals hung on either side of Jesus, the Son of God, the King of Israel, as He was saving humanity.

One of these criminals realized who Jesus was and asked to be remembered by Christ when He entered His kingdom. Christ promised the criminal something better, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43).  Only a king who has supremacy over his kingdom can speak in such bold assurances. Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, gave this poor man such an assurance. While Christ hung from the cross, the throne of his glorification, a sign was nailed above His head. It was inscribed with the charges against Him, but in the light of what was happening at that moment, it was a sign of proclamation. The sign read ” Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The Son of Man was now raised up for all to see, just as Moses raised the serpent up in the desert.  (John 3:14)

The words that Christ speaks from the cross reflect His kingship, even in his pain and agony. Of the seven last sayings of Christ, four are statements of proclamation ( “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” “I thirst,” “It is finished,” “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,”); and one is a command (“Woman, behold your son; son behold your mother,”). The remaining two are a request (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,”), and a quote from His poet-king forefather, David (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)(Psalm 22). Though simple, Christ offers a coronation speech fitting of the humble King.

Nature shows its reaction to Christ’s glorification and death as well. From noon until 3 P.M., usually the brightest part of the day, darkness covers the land. The earth quaked, and the graves of the saints are opened, and the righteous dead walked out and appeared to many people.  Creation was both praising her King and mourning for Him. It was as Christ told the Pharisees, that “if these are silent, the stones will cry out,” (Luke 19:40). All of creation was crying out for her creator. All of this proved that Christ was much more than just the King of the Jews, or even the King of Israel; He was the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, God Incarnate, the Son of God. One centurion realized this after witnessing these supernatural events and exclaimed “surely this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

The world—and many Christians—see Christ on Good Friday and think “how sad.”  We focus solely on the terrible suffering that He endured for our salvation. Yes, we must never forget what Christ suffered to bring redemption and atonement to humanity; the things He endured are incomprehensible.  We cannot, however, allow anything to diminish Christ’s exaltation and glorification. Hanging there from the cross, beaten and bloodied, despised and dejected, hated and reviled was the moment He came into His glory. This was the moment He was exalted and lifted up. This was the moment He bought salvation for all mankind. This was the moment He was crowned the King. This was the moment the Son of Man, the Son of David, was sent to Earth for. This was the moment Christ took His throne, and He rules forever more. Remember that this Good Friday, and kneel before the throne.

artwork: “Man of Sorrows,” James Tissot, c. 1896.

Let Me See.

Christianity, Religion

“And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” Mark 10: 47.

This verse comes at a crucial moment in Mark’s Gospel; in the previous chapter, Christ had revealed His glory in the Transfiguration, and He began giving the disciples some of the most important teachings that they would receive from Him; meanwhile, the disciples bickered amongst themselves over who was the greatest between them.  Christ knows His time on earth is approaching an end and He is preparing the disciples to continue the work He would leave for them, but they are preoccupied arguing with one another over which one of them is Jesus’ favorite.

Jesus was on His way up to Jerusalem to celebrate the coming Passover, and His journey up to the City of David took Him through Jericho. Sitting by the side of the road outside of Jericho was a poor blind beggar named Bartimaeus. In Jesus’ day, there were no charitable organizations who looked after those with physical disabilities; there were no safety nets for people who were not able to work and produce for themselves. Bartimaeus, like many people in our own time, had no other option but to sit by the roadside and rely on the kindness of passing strangers to provide him with money with which he could buy meager provisions. Bartimaeus’ entire existence was an exercise in having faith.

As Jesus was passing through Jericho, a large crowd began following after Him. As you can imagine, the noise of this crowd passing by caught the attention of blind Bartimaeus’ ears, and he started asking those around him who it was that was passing by and creating such a stir. It is easy to imagine him sitting there, quite helplessly, asking for anyone to tell him who is passing by; we can almost hear him pleading for information now. Bartimaeus wanted so desperately to know what was happening around him, just to be able to understand what was going on.

When finally someone tells Bartimaeus that it is Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, Bartimaeus does something incredible. Without missing a beat, he began crying out ” Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  This plea is packed with significance; first, it identifies Jesus as the Messiah. The ” Son of David” was a messianic title that alluded to God’s promise to King David that he would have a descendent upon the throne of Israel forever.  Throughout the books of the Old Testament prophets, we see messianic references to David ruling over Israel and God’s restoration of the kingdom. The Son of David would be the perfect King of Israel, anointed by God, to rule over His people. This is the same greeting Christ would receive in Matthew’s account of the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem when the crowds cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Blind Bartimaeus saw something in Christ that everyone else had yet to see.

Bartimaeus wasn’t just hoping that Christ was the Son of David; he was boldly proclaiming Him to be so. He was sure of this fact. When those in the crowd tried to quiet him, Bartimaeus cried out even louder. He had heard the stories of Christ healing the blind and the lame. He had listened to the stories of the miracles that Christ had performed. Bartimaeus, a person who was used to living a life that relied wholly on faith in God, knew that such actions could only come from the Messiah. Repeatedly in the Old Testament prophets, most notably Isaiah, we find references of the era of the Messiah occurring when “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped,” (Isaiah 35:5).  Bartimaeus trusted that, if Christ truly did all these things, He must be the Son of David—the Messiah.  So he cried out to Jesus, whose name means “God is Salvation,” and begged for mercy.

Christ stopped for Bartimaeus. He was not so busy on His way up to Jerusalem that He could not help this poor, righteous beggar who was being hushed by the crowd. Let’s not forget why Jesus was heading up to Jerusalem in the first place: He was going there to celebrate the Passover, but this year’s Passover would be one that would change the course of history. The very next chapter of Mark’s Gospel is his account of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the beginning of Holy Week. This time when Christ went to Jerusalem, He would not be leaving alive. Christ was on His way up to Jerusalem to die.  But Christ stopped for Bartimaeus. He did not brush Bartimeaus off, He did not ignore him, He did not say “Bartimaeus, I’m too busy getting ready to die for your sins, your vision is a trivial matter right now.” Christ stopped and asked, “What can I do for you?” and He restored Bartimaeus’ sight. He allowed Bartimaeus to see the Son of David in whom he had faith, and who would soon be dying to atone for his sins.

The text says that after this, Bartimaeus followed Christ on the journey up to Jerusalem.  We can only speculate and imagine at what he witnessed following this encounter, but we do know that everything about Bartimaeus’ life changed, all because the Son of David took the time to stop for him. The blind beggar by the side of the street, pleading for mercy from the Son of David, was important to Christ. Even on His way to the cross, Christ never stopped serving those to whom He came to minister. Likewise, we should never be so busy that we can’t take time to minister to those we encounter, to the Bartimaeus on our path. Have faith like Bartimaeus, and be willing to stop like Christ.