In one of the last chapters of Max Lucado's book, He Chose the Nails, Max speaks about the end of the day that Jesus was crucified. He talks about Him crying out, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" And then saying, "It is finished." Max also says He thirsted and some found compassion for Him at this point and offered a sponge filled with sour wine, while others were still mocking. And Jesus, He laid down His life.
At the end of the day they took down the bodies of the three crucified, and they buried them, and one by one they went home. I wonder if the people in the crowd had the same tendency I do as an introvert to think back on how their day was spent. What did they think of Jesus’ trials? What did they think of the mocking that took place? What did they think as they recalled the darkness that came as Christ was hanging on the cross? What did they think of the words He cried out? What did they think of the events that occurred as Jesus gave up His life--the temple curtain being ripped in two, the shaking of the earth, the splitting of rocks, the tombs being opened? When people laid their heads on pillows that night, what were the thoughts they thought and the feelings they felt?
I am sure there were many who knew and loved Jesus who were struggling with deep grief, confusion, and despair who were playing back the tapes of the conversations they had with Him, I am sure that there were some who faced guilt and shame that ran deep because they deserted Him and denied Him. Maybe some even questioned God's plan at that point and maybe a few were holding on to a thread of hope because He had lovingly washed their feet, told them things, and supernatural things happened as He died, indicating God was still at work. Maybe they were even wondering what the meaning of the torn curtain and the graves opening when the ground shook.
What about those religious leaders who had clamored for Him to be crucified? What about those who had mocked Him as He was being disrobed, having bits of hair plucked from His beard, bearing the spittle of others, and the crown of thorns thrust on His head, the painful death He died, the anguish of sin He bore as He faced God's wrath for us. They were people just like you and me. Did they go home at the end of that day filled with self-righteous pride, still believing they were right? I know I have done that at times, to realize later I was wrong as wrong could be and my pride never made it right. In pride I have attacked the beliefs of others thinking I was right...and sometimes I was, but often I wasn't. The thing that hurts my heart to this day is the lack of love I displayed when I chose to attack instead of exploring the truth, the times I misconstrued others' words without clarifying, and when I cared more about winning an argument than I cared about a heart.
What about the ones following the religious leaders? Did they, or at least did some of them, have second thoughts as they laid down to sleep and the silence of the night gave way to shouting thoughts? Did they think about the words He spoke from the cross, about the curtain of the temple being torn, or about the earth shaking as He gave up His life? Did they begin to wonder if they had been too easily swayed by the shouting crowd? I look back at times and realize I was. In college there were all sorts of movements and I didn't always do research. I just shouted what I thought to be the truth, only to find out I was wrong. I remember being swayed by others' misguided passion, only later to be ashamed I had fallen for false information. And, to be honest, this election year we all experienced that over and over again and still do. Did some of the followers realize, like I did, that they bought into the lies and the passion of those who denied Jesus? Did they think back onto sermons He spoke and realize those behind the movement to crucify Him took His words out of context? Did they realize the religious leaders with whom they had aligned themselves often misquoted, misconstrued, and misrepresented Him to protect their position in the community? Did any of them say as the centurion did, "Surely this is the Son of God?"
At the end of the day, what did the people think of the anger they had spent and had spewed as they joined in the cries of those clamoring for Him to be crucified, and the sarcastic mocking that took place both before, and as He was hanging suspended between heaven and earth? Did they feel their anger was justified? Or did at least some of them feel the same shame and the same sickness in the pit of their gut that I have felt when I have laid down at night realizing the angry words I spewed at my children weren't appropriate loving correction, but hurtful, abusive words of a bully. Did they feel the same feelings I felt at the end of the day when a disagreement with my spouse turned ugly and I shouted hateful words I can never fully retract? Did some of them feel the shame that I have felt when I have participated in gossip as either a hearer or a spreader that resulted in character assassination of someone? Did some of them feel that same sick feeling as they rehearsed the memories of their day--the words they spoke, the actions they carried out, the verbal expressions of the Lord from the cross, especially the one that asked the Father to forgive them? Did they lie down and wonder if maybe, just maybe they had blown it big? Did they wonder, like I have at times, "Is there really any way this can be forgiven?"
I hope that some of those people, at the end of that day, who laid down with a sick feeling growing in their gut were able to own their actions and reactions that day. I hope they got to hear and respond to the gospel because, like Paul, they physically in real time and in real space lived out the words penned in Romans, "...in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
As I think about the end of that day, I think that those who did experience the pain of conviction and the realization that they were as wrong as wrong can be, were the ones who had the opportunity to hear the gospel and experience grace that ran deeper than anyone dreamed it could run. Because that grace allowed them to experience the pure love we experience even at the end of the day.