When they saw Jesus, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” (John 19:6)
The very sight of Jesus seems to have enraged His enemies. Just seeing Him standing up front – though in chains, a prisoner, beaten, mocked for His powerlessness – was enough to get the leaders to yell in anger, “Crucify him!” We might think it was only those people at the time of Christ, His enemies, who would scream such a thing against Jesus. Yet, there are times when we believers are really shouting those same words.
When we think about the Cross of Christ – the instrument of His execution, but of our salvation – we realize, Christ chose His path, the way of the Cross, for us. He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He bore on Himself our offenses (1 Peter 2:24).
St. John Chrysostom says Jesus accepted and endured His suffering for a reason:
“He endured all these sufferings, namely, that we might walk in His footsteps…” (COMMENTARY ON ST JOHN THE APOSTLE, p 424)
“That we might walk in His footsteps….” Chrysostom puts before us an even more difficult point – Christ died on the cross for us, for which we are grateful and give thanks to God. But that is not the end of it. Christ died on the cross so that we might imitate Him, and die with Him, and walk in His footsteps. We are to die to self and live with and in Christ. The way of self-sacrificial love, of co-suffering love is to be our way of life as Christians. Christ died for our sins, so we don’t have to pay the price for our sins. However, He died to this world so that we might imitate Him and die to the world with Him. He died to the world in order that we might imitate Him. Just consider what the New Testament teaches us:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
We who have been baptized into Christ and who have chosen to follow Christ, agree to take up our cross and both have Christ live in us and to live the life of Christ. We agree to lay aside our will, our desires, our passions and to instead live as Christ would have us live – to love as Christ loved us.
So when we fail to love others as Christ loves us, or refuse to forgive others their sins against us and debts to us, or fail to love neighbor or enemy, or decline to show mercy to Christ in the least of His brothers and sister, or won’t give up our grievances and grudges or desire for vengeance, when we allow jealousy and envy to control our emotions, we are in effect denying Christ, and yelling, “Crucify Him!” Crucify the One who wants me to do these things which are so hard for me to do, which run counter to my passions and emotions and self-preservation. Crucify the One who wants me to embrace love over self-love, to treat others as better than myself, to put the interest of others ahead of my own self-interest.
As it says in the Epistle to the Hebrews:
they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:6)
When we refuse to do what Christ teaches us, we are like those people long ago who as soon as they saw Christ, screamed, “Crucify Him!” For we are crucifying Him by denying Him and His commandments. We should feel that pain, and like the Prodigal come to our senses and return to following Him who loves us and died for us.
“What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:28-31)