Lately, I have been in awe at the power and influence of social networking. While 2011 started out like any other year for me: making plans to ring in the New Year with friends and family, in other parts of the world political unrest was afoot. I’m referring to the recent protests in Tunisia. One man’s protest roused the entire country to mutiny seemingly overnight via social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Gaining international acclaim this one event inspired other countries to do the same. Citizens in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia all share discontent with their leaders; and soon after took to the streets desiring change. Try as they might, the authorities were unable to prevent protesters from using these popular sites to organize their rallies. As I watch these events unfold, I can’t help thinking of the public demand for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Matt 26:2-4 tells us the religious leaders didn’t like Jesus and wanted him dead. After surrounding Him and the other apostles that night the religious leaders had Jesus arrested. The next morning they tried to accuse Jesus of inciting riots and refusing to pay taxes to Caesar. Doing so meant that Jesus would have to face the death penalty. Three times that day He was found innocent and therefore was only sentenced to be flogged. At this point a crowd had gathered. The verdict wasn’t good enough and the public demanded his death.
Matt 27:15 tells us it was customary for the Roman Governor, Pilate, to release one prisoner every year during Passover. And because all of this happened during the Passover celebration, Pilate presented the crowd with a choice: they could either set Jesus free or a notorious murderer named Barabbas. Coerced by other priests and religious leaders the crowd demanded Barabbas be set free; and Jesus take his place. Frustrated with the crowd Pilate did what they asked and assumed no responsibility hereafter.
The beatings began. He was whipped, humiliated and mocked. Then they brought Jesus to the site for all crucifixions, known as Skull Hill. After He was hung on the cross, the soldiers further embarrassed Him by gambling away his clothes, and was left there to die. But He wasn’t alone.
The Gospel of Luke says Jesus was there with two other criminals, one on either side of Him (Luke 23:32-33). One of the criminals challenged Jesus to prove Himself by saving all three of them from death. In Luke 23:40, the other criminal protests by reminding him of Jesus’ innocence. The other two deserve to die. Out of the three of them, Jesus is the only one who didn’t do anything wrong. The criminal then humbly asks Jesus to remember him in heaven when all this is over. Verse 43 says that Jesus the criminal that his request had been granted, and that they would be in heaven together.
As I read the dialogue between Jesus and the criminals – especially the request to be remembered by Jesus, and the assurance of being with Jesus when it’s all over; I wonder: do any of us see ourselves there? How many times have we done something wrong and later find ourselves in hot water over our actions? With good intentions we try to encourage someone facing a trial, only it comes out the wrong way and accused of being co-conspirators with the other party. While babysitting, you leave a child alone the playground, the child runs back to you with a bloody nose and you have no idea what happened. The parent is irate and never trusts you again. Or a person comments on a co-worker’s smashing good looks one day, and before you know it, they’re caught in an adulterous affair. These are examples of how we can make mistakes and end up hanging on a cross paying for our crimes. Though we may think it’s too late, we do have a Savior waiting to hear us call out to Him. Just like the criminal on Skull Hill, we just might hear Jesus assure us that He is in our midst.