[Pilate said,] “You have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon, And [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!”
They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king by Caesar.”
Just imagine that God in human form stood before you. Truth itself. Love personified. The essence of Eternity and the epitome of Justice and Mercy. Beaten, broken, but unbowed, God staggered on his two bloody feet. And you are asked two questions by the powers that be.
Shall I free him?
Shall I kill him?
And what do you say?
You not only emphatically refuse his release but you demand the pardon of a violent revolutionary instead. And if that weren’t enough, you insist that God be viciously executed as you falsely claim allegiance to Caesar, your people’s oppressive dictator. In other words, you hand the Savior of the world over to sadists and executioners, while arranging the liberation of an enemy of Caesar while simultaneously pledging undying fealty to Caesar.
And so…while the chief conspirators loudly declared their hollow loyalty to a despot king, the True King died. That is what happened today. And tonight, what remains on this dark eve of Good Friday and deep into tomorrow, is the crushing reality…the mournful, unfinished cry, “The King is dead!”. For we know, despite our professions to the contrary, Caesar isn’t our true king and Barabbas isn’t our ally.
In certain royal circles, the disconsolate cry, “The King is dead!” is followed by the hopeful corrective “Long live the King!” for the health and prosperity of the next ruler. But today, on Good Friday, there is no successor, there is no other king. For God walked among us, healed us, taught us and loved us without condition. The King warmly consorted with his people – his children. And now, inexplicably, the King is dead. The King is dead.
And we killed him.
And so, for a time – for a short and dark while – let us mourn. Let us feel the oppressive heaviness of loss and the empty blackness of Christ’s death. Let us sit still and do as Shakespeare’s King Richard II entreated,
No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?…
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings.
The King is dead.
Photo credit: Michelangelo’s Pieta (Wikimedia Commons)