In 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation establishing the first National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. (It will be observed next on Jan. 15, 2017.) This day calls attention to the cause of the unborn and to the precious gift of life itself. Life is a sacred gift from God, but it was not considered so in the time of Christ. The Anglican priest and poet G. A. Studdert-Kennedy (1883–1929) writes in his famous poem “Indifference”:
When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human life was cheap.
Our Lord understood what awaited him when he traded the splendor of Heaven for the squalor of earth. He knew his purpose in life included having nails driven through his hands. “They pierce my hands and my feet” (Psalm 22:16). He told his disciples he must suffer many things, be rejected, “and that he must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). He knew that he was born to die, but in dying he would “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Communion reminds us of those “crude and cruel days” when “human life was cheap.” Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders alike mocked Jesus. Even the two thieves “heaped insults on him” (Matthew 27:44). But Communion also reminds us of the love Jesus showed for us on Calvary, for in the midst of crudity and cruelty, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Studdert-Kennedy’s poem includes Jesus coming to Birmingham, England, where, instead of inflicting pain, they simply “left Him in the rain.”
Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.
Victor Knowles is founder and president of POEM (Peace on Earth Ministries), Joplin, Missouri; www.poeministries.org.