Today’s reading is John 19:28-42 (NRSV):
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced.
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows[g] that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
The Burial of Jesus.
38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
In the United States and the entire Western world, you never have to go far before you’ll see a cross, whether it is outside of a church or a school, on a poster, or hanging around someone’s neck. I see them so frequently, in fact, that I often forget what the cross really is. It always comes back, of course, that the cross should be a sign of hope, a reminder of God’s love for us, and so on. But if you think about it, when we see Christ nailed to a cross, we are seeing someone who was regarded to be nothing but a complete and utter failure.
On Palm Sunday, followers and strangers alike praise and sing to Jesus, hailing him as a king, as he rides into Jerusalem. Everyone listens to every word he says, and strains to even catch a glimpse of him. He is the center of it all, on top of the world. But then, just a few days later, that king is dead, naked and beaten on a cross, alone except for a couple of friends, his mother, and the two criminals hanging on either side of him. Friends, gone. Reputation, ruined. Hope, lost. A failure.
He cried in anguish, was mocked, was spit on, was beaten, and then he died in one of the worst ways imaginable.
He did it all for us. By this “failure,” He showed us how to suffer and how to love. How incredible it is to know that when we are beaten down, humiliated, empty, or in pain, the Lord of the universe is right there with us. He has been there before, and He will go there over and over and over again, just to be with us.
What could be more important than knowing that your Creator loves you so much that He died for you? We know what this “failure” became: Christ triumphed over death and opened the doors of Heaven to us. We know that we must rejoice and give thanks for the sheer goodness of God. But before we celebrate Easter later this week, we must remember what happened first: God loved us to the very end. He did not do this because we deserved it. We didn’t, and there’s nothing we could do to deserve it. But at the same time, there is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.
We are redeemed by His Blood. Some “failure.”
Ben Kelly ’17 is an Applied Math concentrator in Lowell House.