Now today I am going to come at this from a few angles that I am sure will surprise many of you that chose to read this. It’s Good Friday, So part of this is what makes it good? Then the biggie most know, Easter is coming really soon and I have been thinking about the cross. This morning, I would like to look at four men whose names we are not given. They are the four soldiers that gambled for Jesus’ clothes.
One of the mysteries of the crucifixion is that there were so many who were there who did not recognize who Yehoshua also better known as in our time as Jesus. The Sanhedrin recognized Him as dangerous, but not as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Pilate recognized Him as guiltless, but not as the Holy One of Israel. The crowd recognized Him as the son of Mary, but not as the Son of God.
But how did the soldiers not recognize that Jesus was different from all of the other criminals they had crucified. Jesus did not curse, threaten, or even resist. He went as a lamb to the slaughter. No one who is about to have iron stacks driven into his hands and feet does so without a fight, but Jesus did! No one who is being tortured shows love for his tormentors, but Jesus did! No one who is about to crucified does so without begging for mercy, but Jesus did! Why couldn’t these men see who Jesus really was?
I. They were Distracted by Duty
It was their duty to crucify criminals. It was not their responsibility to judge if the man was innocent or guilty. It was not their place to get to know the condemned. Their job was to execute them, and they did so without mercy or compassion. The death was to be as painful and as slow as possible, and these men had been trained to accomplish this. They were professionals. They had a job to perform and they did it and did it well.
I wonder how many people are sitting, this morning, in are in a church somewhere or maybe even reading this are as close as these men were to the cross, but are distracted by all that they have to do. We have jobs to perform, food to put on the table, church responsibilities, family members to take care of, and on and on and on …. Life is hectic and demands so much from us. This is a trap of those evil words being human! If he can get us too busy doing good things or things we have to do instead of caring for our own souls, then he has us.
I am reminded of someone in a parish I was served in which specific member is distracted by Ms. Busywork Good intentions. It is her desire to be such a “Good Christian” that she stops journeying towards love, and helping others, compassion, kindness with out request. That she couldn’t see that the couple that came into the church one morning seeking help while I was in my office, she quickly rushed away saying things like “he is very busy and only has time for members”. I wish that this was only a story line, and not real life; but we all know how busy we get, and often see our lives and what we do as a sort of “Members only club”.
Now I am going to say something that may surprise you. The soldiers most likely committed no sin in crucifying Jesus. They were executed a condemned prisoner. They probably had no idea who Jesus was. They had executed several “false messiahs” before. This, to them, was just another one of those crackpots. Just as there is no sin in serving as a correctional officer who is involved in execution. ( I however and Not for any form a capital punishment), I do not believe that these men will be responsible for their involvement in Jesus crucifixion.
I said that to say this: there may be no sin in your job, your hobbies, etc.; but if it keeps you from serving God or the source of all however you want to name it, you’d better take notice. You may have to make some difficult decisions. You may have to take a painful road, but if it will take you to something greater then what is here on earth now, it will be worth it.
II. They were Distracted by Desires
Another reason that the soldiers did not get under the blood was that they were distracted by their desires. They each wanted Jesus’ garments. I doubt that there was anything special about the robe. These men were entitled to it, but they were supposed to share it. So they gambled for the privilege of owning Jesus’ garment. I wonder how much that garment would be worth today?
There is nothing wrong with wanting something if that thing is not sinful. The problem is when we want something so much that we become distracted from our spiritual needs because we are spending so much time trying to get things. We live in a culture that bases success on how much money you have, how big and fancy your house is, how luxurious you car is, and so forth.
III. They were Distracted by Deception
Finally, the soldiers were distracted by deception. They had their, Roman gods. They had their own rituals, their own sacrifices, and their own temples. They were not looking for a way to heaven; they already believed that they were on the way!
On top of this, there had been many false messiahs in those days. When one sees so many counterfeits; oftentimes, they can no longer recognize the genuine. But it wasn’t even just the false messiahs, but the false Judaism that was so prominent in that day. There was so much fighting between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Legalism seemed to be the order of the day. Love and mercy were missing in their religion. They, daily, felt the hatred of the Jewish people. There was nothing to show them that this was the way to heaven.
I wish that I could tell you that this is no longer the case, but I can’t. “Christians” are all the time fighting over doctrines, standards, and petty issues. Sometimes, I wonder how far we’ve really come!
I know people who are not serving the Source of all right now right now because they are so confused – they don’t know what to believe. They may go from church to church looking for truth, but, like Pilate, they don’t know what truth looks like! Listen, you don’t have to have it all figured out to be a person of good, or a person of faith, or even a Christian. All you have to do is remember that Jesus, like so many others have been calling us “to love one another, help each other, show real compassion for each other, not just for public eye but for true unadulterated love.
So today as many of us remember that Jesus was crucifixion ask yourself, Am I listening to the spirit? Am I seeing those around me that are truly showing me the image of god with nothing more then just being who they are?
Every one of us here is close to the cross in some form. Some are already seeing this. Are you?
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Reflections from the monks and nuns of OES.