Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meditation on the First Station of the Cross: Christ is Condemned

Pilate Condemns Jesus
A main focal point of the season of Lent is the Passion of our Lord. Many if not most Catholic churches have the Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent. I personally think it would be a good thing to do this during the rest of the year as well to remind people that Friday is a penitential day both during and outside of Lent, but I'll leave that discussion for another time.

I am going to try to do a mediation on each Station of the Cross during this Lenten season. I emphasize the word try because I don't know if I'll actually make it.

Jesus Before Herod
Artist:  James Tissot, French, 1836-1902
The first Station of the Cross is the condemnation of Jesus. Jesus was arrested on what we now call Holy Thursday. He was whipped and beaten that night for no apparent reason other than the enjoyment of his captors. He was first brought to the Jewish Council and the High Priest who held an illegal, mock trial. They then dragged Jesus over to Pilate who declared. "I find nothing criminal about this man." When Pilate found out Jesus was a Galilean, he sent him over to Herod, who was in charge of Galilee. Herod basically played with Jesus, asking him ridiculous questions while Jesus stood in front of him completely silent. "And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.  Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other."  (Luke 23:11-12).

Now Jesus stood once more before Pilate who had to make a decision. Pilate had been warned by his wife, who had had a vivid dream, to have nothing to do with "this righteous man." So Pilate comes up with the brilliant solution that if he just "punishes" Jesus, that will satisfy the bloodthirsty crowds, and then he will be able to let Jesus go free and "nobody will get hurt". It never occurs to Pilate that there is anything wrong with scourging a completely innocent man.

Jesus is then handed over to the Roman scourgers who made scourging into an art. They beat and whip Jesus so mercilessly that he was barely alive and barely recognizable as a human being when they were done. Pilate then took Jesus, mutilated and bleeding, before the crowd and announced, "Ecce Homo", which means "Behold the Man." This not only did not satisfy the crowd, it incensed them more and they cried all the louder, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!"

Pilate was now scared because he knew Jesus was a completely innocent man, and he knew that he was no ordinary man. He wanted nothing to do with this. But he also did not want a riot on his hands. At one point he gave the crowd a choice between freeing Barabbas, who was a revolutionary who tried to overthrow the government, and releasing Jesus. The crowd called for Barabbas. Interestingly, Barabbas means "son of the fathers."

Pilate finally gave into the crowd and took the coward's way out, literally washing his hands of the matter, and then handing Jesus over to be crucified.

Each of us starts our spiritual journey at baptism as the reverse image of our Lord. We stand before God and acknowledge that we have sinned and are guilty and deserving of death. That is when Christ steps in and stands before God, just as he did before Pilate, and our sin and guilt is transferred to Him. Barabbas was the symbol for all of us. We, like Barabbas, were the "son of the father" as Christ told the Pharisees in John 8:44:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
There was never a more innocent human being in the entire world than Jesus Christ. Every word and act in his life was one of total love for others. The words "self defense" did not exist in Jesus' vocabulary. He never fought back against anyone who maligned him personally. The only time Jesus fought was on behalf of others and to save souls. It was total Innocence that took on Barabbas' guilt, allowing him to go free, and it is total Innocence that takes on our guilt and frees us from enslavement to the the devil.

Romans 8:1-3:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.
We were all Dead Men Walking, but our Lord took our condemnation upon Himself. When He stood before Pilate, He was laden down with our sin, beaten and scourged for us, as Isaiah 53:5 says:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Barabbas wasn't the only one who symbolized our guilt. Every time we deliberately sin, we are putting ourselves in the place of Pilate and in place of the crowds crying out for Jesus to be crucified. Our sins once more condemn our Savior to the Cross. We, like Pilate, can try to wash our hands and walk away, but like Pilate, our guilt will follow us. We must acknowledge our guilt. Only then will Christ be able to truly cleanse us.

When we meditate on this first Station of the Cross and think of Christ standing before Pilate who condemns Him to death, we must remember that Jesus, who was totally innocent, was condemned in our place and for our sins. From the Way of the Cross by St. Francis of Assisi:
O innocent Jesus, 
I have sinned and I am guilty of eternal death; 
but that I may Live, 
Thou dost gladly accept the unjust sentence of death. 
For whom then shall I henceforth live 
if not for Thee, my Lord? 
If I desire to please men, 
I can not be Thy servant. 
Let me, therefore, rather displease the whole world 
than not please Thee, O Jesus!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...