We often hear how our sins, were the cause of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is a pretty hard concept to accept for a couple reasons. Most importantly, the Crucifixion happened almost 2000 years ago. It’s hard enough to imagine how peoples’ sins, prior to Jesus, were responsible for the Crucifixion, let alone the sins of people who came afterward. Although we didn’t even exist back then, the truth is we are responsible for the Crucifixion.
A Timeless Realm
First of all, God lives in a timeless realm. That’s nearly impossible to comprehend because that means everything we experience on Earth, in sequence, is happening all at once from God’s point of view. Yet, this concept brings everything into perspective.
We live in a sequential world, so the closest we can come to experiencing infinity is a memory. We clearly remember many events of our past, even though they aren’t taking place in the present. For God, it would be as if He recalled every event of all time in one single memory. Only for God, they are the real events He experiences, not just memories.
If we examine the sins of those who participated in Jesus’ crucifixion we can see the actions of those involved are the types of sins committed since Adam and Eve forfeited Eden. All of our sins, before the Crucifixion and after are the same, because time doesn’t matter in eternity. Jesus said if you break one of the Commandments, it’s as if you’ve broken them all (James 2:10). He also said what we do for the least of people, we have done to Him (Matt 25:40).
Jesus Suffered For My Sins
Reflecting on all this, I found it repulsive to think in great detail what Jesus suffered. It seemed rather gory to dwell on these horrors.
However, during this reflection, something else occurred to me. Knowing how severely Jesus suffered, the truth is many people were inclined to inflict suffering on Him without feeling repulsed. To make matters worse, people were willing to do this to a Man who never threatened them with any harm but rather offered them the greatest mercy.
Almost every sin imaginable contributed to His suffering. Since these are the same sins which are so prevalent, today, it’s worthwhile to note how the evils which pervade this world also played their roles in Jesus Agony.
Pride, jealousy, and arrogance led the Pharisees to plot His destruction. Had they truly obeyed the First Commandment, to Love God with all their hearts and souls, shouldn’t they have recognized who Jesus was from the start? They all knew scripture in every detail. Their fear and jealousy prevented them from seeing that they had created a god of prestige, authority, and power for themselves, and which they had placed before the God who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They exposed their nature during the same celebration of Passover, which brought them out of slavery and abuse, which also gave us the Eucharist and the New Covenant. The Pharisees, in trying to maintain their authority and power actually caused themselves to lose all authority and power.
How often do we do the same – let our pride lead us to protect our position at the expense of honoring God in His Position? How often to we strive to gain prestige and respect at the expense of ignoring God? How often do we seek to gain or maintain authority and power at the expense of respecting God’s authority and power? I think we do these things in many ways and think nothing of it.
Similarly, the same crowd who welcomed Jesus, praising Him with palms and honors just a few days earlier, changed their attitudes toward Jesus. Influenced by public opinion, or fear of retribution, or simple peer pressure, they quickly ignored what they knew and turned against Him, supporting those who tortured Him. All were too proud and afraid to take the risk of standing up in Jesus defense./p>
One look at today’s social norms shows how quickly and harshly one might be ridiculed for having faith in Jesus. In the middle-east, people are being martyred daily for their faith.
How many of us freely speak up in defense of Jesus, or of our Catholic faith when we hear of either being publicly decried? This may be one of the most difficult challenges of our lifetimes. Realize peer pressure and public opinion are a powerful influence; many who seem to “go along to get along” would love to hear your voice supporting their beliefs. Many might gain courage if they know they have support in doing the same. Had we spoken up, loud and clear, and not allowed anyone to ridicule our faith, or to present false evidence against Jesus’ Church, we might have gained the same respect the middle-eastern torturers seem to have gained. We might have been able to prevent these mass murders. “Whatsoever you do to the least among you, you do to Me,” (Matt 25:40).
Greed and Betrayal
Greed led Judas to turn Jesus over to these jealous men in exchange for a quick 30 pieces of silver. How many times do we forsake our faith for a good opportunity such as a better job, quick money; a chance to hobnob with a celebrity; a chance to get rid of a pregnancy so that you can go on as if it never happened; a chance to get something at a great price, even knowing it might be stolen property; or a chance to become one of the most respected persons in your field, despite having to betray your faith.
How likely are you to accept a benefit for performing an act which violates Jesus’ greatest Commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31). This is especially easy when you know you’ll never meet those people who are affected by your action. It’s easy when you can rationalize choosing this instead of turning it down. A common rationalization might be, “Well, if I don’t take it someone else will. So, I wouldn’t be preventing it, and I sure need the money.” That’s a hard one to resist. Could you do it? Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life” John 12:25).
Fear and Self-preservation
Fear led Peter and other apostles to deny Christ when Jesus needed their support. Yes, even the chosen apostles succumbed to fear when they had every reason to maintain their faith.
Despite being warned by his wife who had disturbing dreams about Jesus, Pontius Pilate punished a man he knew was innocent, and for all the wrong reasons. Concerned about his standing with Caesar if he lost control of the Jews, he deferred to the crowd for his decision, then claimed to wash his hands of the decision.
How many times do we defer to someone else’s wrong decision rather than fight to support the right one? How many things have we justified a decision because it was the politically correct thing to do? Or because we’d been made to think it was none of our business?
Ask people to name those they trust. Most can’t name more than a couple people. Most people won’t put themselves at risk for another, even when it’s family or friend. And sadly, so many of us believe our closest connections will be there when we need them. Can you be trusted?
Anger, Callousness, and Hatred
I really don’t know any other way to classify the soldiers who performed the actual lashing and crucifixion. What drove them to offer gall and vinegar instead of water, adding insult and discomfort on top of every other cruelty? How callous were they to mock Jesus in His pitiable situation, gamble for His clothes at the foot of the cross, with no thought of the additional emotional pain these actions caused Jesus, Mary and others who remained with Jesus to the end.
When people ask (often, cynically) why Jesus had to die for our sins, and why He had to die in the way He did, I will now point out how many sinful attitudes and habits He exposed in just 24 hours. How He brought the sins of man to light. How those sins contrasted to the Goodness and Gentleness Jesus brought to the world.
When people challenge me about what’s sinful about their lives, their attitudes, their behaviors, it will be easy to ask them if they’ve ever cowered when asked to defend an unpopular opinion, or have they attacked another for an opinion which differed from theirs? Do they have anything or anyone in their life they would die for? Do they see how evil minds seek to destroy the Good in this world? And do they understand any mindset which isn’t of God, is of evil?
The agony Jesus suffered on the Cross and all that led up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection tells us, not only how much Jesus loves us, but why. If Jesus was able to satisfy God’s anger, then Jesus has earned the right to include all of our sins in His sacrifice. He’s earned the right to include or exclude whomever he chooses. He’s wrapped His mantle around all of us, and with us, our sins are also wrapped in that mantle, away from God’s sight.