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Holy Week Part I: Palm Sunday Gospel — Crucify Him? Really?

March 25th, 2018, Promulgated by Diane Harris

For Holy Week, we’ll be re-running a few prior reflections, with perhaps some minor changes. The first is this post on the Gospel reading for Palm Sunday. It is the place to begin, because it confronts our own individual role in the events of this Holiest of Weeks.

Meditation in the First Station of the Cross

One way to ‘do’ the Stations of the Cross is to pray up, into and through them, one at a time, during Lent.  It might take all 40 days to just go through the Stations once this way, but with many insights and spiritual uplifting from the Holy Spirit.  In the first station, “Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, ‘I find no crime in this man.'”  Luke 23:4. We sense from the readings that Pilate is looking for some way to release Jesus, some way around the “problem.”

First Station of the Cross Divine Mercy Center Stockbridge, MA

First Station of the Cross
Divine Mercy Center
Stockbridge, MA

He offers to release Him or Barabbas, but the crowd chooses Barabbas.  What to do with Christ? The crowd shouts “Crucify Him!”

“So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:24.

After Pilate dramatically tries to wash his hands of the blood of his own Redeemer, he condemns Jesus to death:

“So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after having Jesus scourged, handed Him over to be crucified.”  Mark 15:15.

For many years I felt a real distaste when the Passion is read, whether on Palm Sunday, especially when the assembly is given a few meager lines, the most memorable of which is “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”  There have been years I just couldn’t bring myself to say the words at all, other years in which I muttered them quietly, anxious to get on with the reading.  But never did I utter those words with any enthusiasm, feeling it was a pretty poor part to give to the congregation.  But, one time, meditating on the first Station of the Cross, changed that perception forever.

That time, I could imagine Christ, returning all bloodied from the scourging, and standing before Pilate, waiting for an earthly decision that Pilate could not have made were he not empowered to do so by our Heavenly Father.  I could imagine that if I were there, with Christ’s followers, that the choice of Christ or Barabbas might have, for an instant, given me hope that Jesus would be spared.  I could imagine that I would be praying/hoping for His release.

But suppose Pilate had turned to me — or to you — and said “What would YOU have me do?  Should I crucify Jesus or Barabbas?”  If I knew everything I now know in faith, that without Christ’s crucifixion I am damned for all eternity, yet I had the love for Christ that comes through His Grace now abundantly poured out, what would I have said?  It is a vital question with which to struggle.  If I could fully realize that one of us had to die for my sins, Him agonizingly on the Cross or me in an eternity of death, what would I have said?  Knowing what I now know, I would have said “Crucify Him.”  And I would have looked away, too ashamed to look in Christ’s eyes.

After spending time ‘in’ the first Station (as opposed to ‘at’ the first Station) I realized that my distaste for the line “Crucify Him” from the Passion Reading is because of my reluctance to admit that I am the one who put Christ on the Cross.  But now I think the line “Crucify Him! Crucify Him” is one of the best lines in the Passion Reading, one of the purest, and a privilege to say.  Because not only do I own up to the fact that I put Christ on the Cross but, perhaps even more important, I open myself to accept more fully the fruits of that crucifixion.  Yes, God chose to sacrifice Himself for our sins, no matter what I would have decided but, when I say “Crucify Him,” in a sense I say “Amen” to God’s decision.  And in that “Amen” I say that I am willing to accept the Cross that Christ has for me too.  I say that I am grateful for God’s atonement for what I never could have reconciled.  By saying “Crucify Him” I am giving up forever the right to wash my hands of Christ’s Blood, as Pilate tried to do.  By saying “Crucify Him” I accept His washing me clean of my guilt for saying “Crucify Him.”  By saying “Crucify Him” I acknowledge that my love for Him, even now, is not so great that I would have been willing to sacrifice my eternity to save Christ from the Cross.  When I say “Crucify Him” I also admit how poor and weak my own love is, for His is the far greater Love, to lay down His Life for me.

Now it is a kind of joy and a privilege to say those words: “Crucify Him; Crucify Him.” Words I had long refused to utter. Perhaps we should, in the reading of the Passion, dwell upon those words longer and deeper, with individual emphasis.  Now, what would you have said, if Pilate had asked you: “And what should I do with Jesus?”

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One Response to “Holy Week Part I: Palm Sunday Gospel — Crucify Him? Really?”

  1. avatar Dominick Anthony Zarcone says:

    CRUCIFY HIM

    I imagine family members are uncomfortable and embarrassed at Readings of the Passion when I shout out CRUCIFY HIM.

    Never have I avoided those two words, nor have I ever reflected so well upon them as Sister Diane has in this post. While I am benefiting from these posted reflections on those two horrific words, still I think my reasons for shouting them out with passionate emotion are different. I want to identify with the shouting, ignorant, sinful and politically motivated crowd.

    You see, before the sanctifying grace of the risen Savior’s Holy Spirit, I am no better nor any worse than any other sinner for whom the Son of God died. “….while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8b.

    Beloved Diane, thank you for helping me see more clearly that:
    * I am the one who put Christ in the cross;
    * I am willing to say Amen to God’s decision and the fruits He has brought forth by the crucifixion;
    * I am giving up forever the right to wash my hands of Christ’s blood;
    * I admit how poor and weak my love is.

    Ultimately, I am one of those who knew not what they were doing for whom the crucified Savior prayed “Father Forgive Them”.

    Thanks Be To God For The Crucifixion, The Resurrection and The Forgiveness Of Sins Through Christ’s Blood.

    CRUCIFY HIM


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