By Stuart Powell
By AD 32, the region of Judea had endured the shame of Roman oppression for a century. The Jews longed to see David’s kingdom restored but didn’t know how to make it happen. They dreamt of a kingdom where Jews ruled Jews and the Law of God brought perfect harmony in the Promised Land.
The Jewish faithful opposed all Greek and Roman customs and mandates. They refused to offer sacrifices to the emperor, honor the false Roman deities, or willingly pay the tribute Caesar demanded.
In response, the Romans ridiculed their faith and mercilessly killed any Jews who appeared to threaten Rome. The Romans also ignored the holiness of the Jews’ sacred places.
When Jesus came to Jerusalem for Passover that year, he objected to the way the Jewish leaders lived out the Law. He did not always honor the Sabbath by their rules. He ignored the traditions passed down from the ancients. He acted like a prophet but associated with the broken masses of sinners. And worst of all, he insinuated that the temple Herod built would be torn down.
Having heard and seen enough, the Jewish leaders—who detested everything Roman—began acting like the very people they despised. They ridiculed Jesus’ connection with the Father. They mercilessly beat Jesus and saw that he was convicted and sentenced to death. Finally, they added insult to the shame by ignoring the holiness of Jesus’ body and demanding he be crucified by the Romans.
In response, the all-powerful Son of God welcomed the worst that humanity unleashed against him. In surrendering, he embodied the suffering servant Isaiah described seven centuries earlier:
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:4-6).
Sometimes it hurts to ponder the pain and humiliation Jesus received. We need to remember it because that was how God chose to forgive our wickedness.
Let’s eat the bread that speaks of God’s punishment together. Let’s drink the cup that points to God’s wrath. In this action we relive the events on the day when Jesus welcomed our shame.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.