search icon search iconSearch A-Z Index Members IconMember Portal Members IconOnline Giving
Members Icon


Welcome to the First Presbyterian Church portal. Please choose an option below to see our events, small groups or to give online.


First Thoughts Blog

← Return to blog

Lent - Day 29


Week 5

Ludovico Cigoli. The Deposition from the Cross. c. 1600. 
The dark worst point of Passion Week was the six hours of crucifixion. Nature corroborated the horror as the sky went dark and the earth shook.
Jesus was nailed to the rough beams in his hands and feet. The word “excruciating” was invented to express the agony of being hung on a cross to die.
Yet even in these hours, redeeming encounters occurred. Simon of Cyrene became a disciple after he carried the cross for Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, the place of the skull. One thief crucified next to Jesus came to faith as he pleaded to be remembered and received assurances from Jesus that he would be with him always. And Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council who believed in Jesus, came out of hiding to arrange an honorable burial for Jesus.
Around 1600, Ludovico Cigoli captured the great and grievous effort it was to take a body from a cross. The spikes had to be removed from the wood and the flesh. The body had to be lowered in a winding sheet, wrapped, then carried off.
Jesus’ remaining loyal followers carefully tended him, pouring their love into what, to all eyes, seemed a lost cause. We note by their head-wear the presence of both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, participating in this work far beneath their station. Here faith shone brightest, when it seemed least victorious.

Day 29  Sunday


That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1: 3).


Matthew 27: 27-31
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Luke 23: 36-37
The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”


Who knows why they treated Jesus this way. He clearly wasn’t a danger to them. Perhaps the soldiers seethed with anger at being so far away from home. Perhaps they hated this population of Jews who, though obedient, always seemed unbowed in spirit. Perhaps they liked having a victim they were free to bully.
We know the delicious thrill of having a scapegoat. Maybe it was the girl in middle school with the smelly hair. Or the boy in high school who never had all his gear for gym. Or the guy with acne we called Pizza Face. As awkward as we felt, at least we weren’t like them.
We know the power of displaced anger. When we take out frustration at work on our spouse. When we unload in fury at the children over a simple mistake. When we jerk the dog’s collar for pulling. There’s a rage we want to release on someone who can’t fight back.
And of course, there’s the indignation we feel at the presence of holiness. Anger ignites in us when someone won’t participate in the gossip or the slightly shady deal or the drugs at the party.  
The soldiers channeled the rage of the sinner against God that is deep inside all of us. They let out the bully I hide, the mocker I disguise and the crusher I mask.  
And Jesus took it all. He would not save himself. Because he was saving us. The story of how they mocked Jesus breaks my heart. And all the more when I imagine my own participation. 


Oh Lord Jesus, 
I scarcely dare admit my connection to this episode.
Paul called it being a God-hater.
You said what I do to the least of these I do to you.
I have called your faithful children “goody-goodies.”
I have gleefully demonized “those people” for whom you died. 
I have mocked “your glory” as a poor reason for suffering.
I have questioned angrily how you wield your sovereignty.
I have wanted to spew my venom on someone else,
Get another to carry the negative energy for me,
Transfer the shame, the guilt and the pain underneath.
You take it all. 
You answer the soldiers with acceptance.
You reply to the howls of our rage with the quiet of bread broken in an upper room.
You ask for me to pour all the poison into your cup
So that you can give me the wine of life.
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20: 31).



In his book, Unaplogetic, Francis Spufford describes the way the crowd piled on their hatred as Jesus made his way to the cross. The soldiers were just representative of the frustration, the projection, the venom in every heart:
He’s stumbling along under the weight of his own instrument of execution, a great big wooden thing he can hardly lift, with an escort of the empire’s soldiers . . . the bystanders don’t see their hopes parading by. They see their disappointment, they see their frustration. They see everything in themselves that is too weak or too afraid to confront the strapping paratroopers; and much though they hate the soldiers, they hate him more, for his pathetic slide into victimhood. Word of his loose living, his impiety, his pleasure in bad company goes round in whispers. And just look at him. There’s something disgusting about him, don’t you think? Something that makes you squirm inside. Something . . . furtive. He’s so pale and sickly-looking, with that dried blood round his mouth. He looks like a pedophile being led away by the police. He looks like something from under a rock; as if he doesn’t deserve the daylight. He’s a blot on the new day. . . . Yeshua is a joke. He’s less a messiah, more a patch of something nasty on the pavement (Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, 2013, pp. 140-141).
Jesus became the object of our pent-up rage at the way life is, our own helplessness to change and our own disgust that we are no better. The soldiers merely expressed more brutally the bruising will in every human heart.


Posted in: