Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

Today is the day in which we commemorate the death of Jesus on the Cross. All throughout the Church, there are people who are participating in the reading of the Passion, the Stations of the Cross or the Veneration of the Cross. As we use these various means of coming to terms with Our Lord's death, one can begin to ask Just who is to blame?

Certainly it is foolish to blame the Jews. After all, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Peter, James, John, Martha, Lazarus, et alia were all Jewish. It is difficult to blame the Pharisees or another of Judaism's theological parties for Jesus' death either. It is true that Jesus argued with them, but likewise they invited Him into their homes. Certainly some Jewish elders and high priests are demonstrated as at least partly culpable. But even some of them eventually became Christians. We cannot really blame any present Jewish person for Jesus' death anymore than we ought to blame those who live in Dallas now for the death of President John F. Kennedy.

I have heard others trying to make the Romans culpable for the death of Jesus. This idea makes not much more sense. It is true that the Jews at that time could not have legally crucified Jesus, the Romans had to be involved. But not all the Romans were enemies of Jesus. We have only to think of the Centurion whose faith amazed even Jesus. Although he did not have the political courage to do it, Pilate at least at first wanted to let Jesus go. It would be unfair to blame all "the Romans" for Jesus' death, even if some had to be materially involved in His crucifixion.

There have even circulated opinions that Jesus hated life and manipulated Judas to betray Him, all so Jesus could be arrested and killed. There is no scriptural evidence that Jesus was suicidal in His thoughts or behavior. Besides, if He hated life, why would Jesus have chosen the most difficult and painful death and even refuse what little anesthesia that was offered in those days? Most of those who despise life and want to die have that attitude because they want the pain to cease, not to increase to the limits of human capacity.

If we want an answer to the question who is to blame for the death of Jesus we must first remember that Jesus did not have his life taken away from Him against His will. Neither was His death a suicide. Jesus' death was a sacrifice. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin in obedience to God the Father. That is not to say that others did not act freely to betray Him or demand that He be crucified. The Gospels have several examples of people wanting to kill Jesus, from the people in Nazareth, to scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem. But they were unable to do anything until Jesus Himself permitted it. Even the attempt to gain false testimony did not work. It was not until Jesus spoke the truth that He truly was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, that they had the evidence which the elders and the Chief priests thought was necessary to condemn Him. Jesus Himself stated No one takes it (life) from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again (John 10:18).
That all being said, if Jesus is a sacrifice for the salvation of sinners, then who is to blame for the death of Jesus? It is us, of every nation, every race, every culture, every religion, every language. Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of God's will for us (except for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she still needed to be saved by Jesus). Every human being who ever lived needs the salvation gained through the death of Jesus. Therefore, if we ask the question "who is to blame" with the idea of condemning someone, then we have missed the point of Jesus' death. If we ask the question in order to understand the Lord's motivation for this act of love, then we might begin to understand.

Anyway, Christ died for us sinners, so that we could be saved. Thanks be to God!

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