April 30, 2021

Jesus on the Cross


By Metropolitan Kallinikos Karousos of Piraeus 
"And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him." (Lk. 23:33)

With these simple words Luke the Evangelist mentions the greatest event in world history. The biggest crime ever committed. The most sacred sacrifice offered on a scaffold.

Christ on the Cross, as a common criminal. O! inconceivable condescension of the incarnate Word! The cross was then the most dishonorable instrument of death. The worst of the convicts were crucified. But since the Saint of saints was raised on the Cross, it has become an instrument of life, an instrument of redemption and salvation.

"The undefiled temple was destroyed; then, with itself it raised up the fallen tabernacle." On the Cross hangs "He who suffered for us and by His passion liberated us." On the Cross He extended His hands, and the incarnate God united things that had been divided. Blood flowed from the nails, which the peasant soldiers fixed into His immaculate hands. The crown of thorns He wore, wounded His holy head. The "most beautiful one" was now pale, drained of His blood, "having neither form nor beauty."

Today, Great Friday, all these horrible scenes come to mind. Our hearts break. Our legs shake. Our eyes water. Our entire being is shocked by the unique spectacle: Jesus on the Cross.

Jesus on the Cross

And below the Cross of the Lord are people. People? Here the word loses its meaning, another would be more accurate: beasts.

Do you doubt this? Yes, those who stood below the Cross were beasts. Beasts with barbaric hearts. Can't you hear how they wound Him with their venomous words? Do you not understand their ironies and ridicule? "You who would build the temple in three days, save yourself." "If you are the Son of God then come down from the cross." "He saved others, why can't he save himself?" Knowing the most sensitive point of His holy heart, they cry out to Him with ruthless gleeful malice: "He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God."

What darkness! What has man degenerated into? Tigers and lions and hyenas have less savagery than that shown by the "firstborn son" of Israel. "An impious and lawless people", who remained unmoved before that Unique Physiognomy. They are people who lost the right way to think, because they had previously lost the right heart. Ignorant and ungrateful people. People blind from hatred towards the Innocent. O! when man is spiritually blind he sees nothing. He remains unmoved even before the greatest miracle. The mind becomes an instrument of the devil. And he thinks that he is supposed to think for himself. What an illusion!

"O my people, what have I done to you, and how have you repaid me? Instead of manna, you fed Me gall; instead of water, you gave Me vinegar; instead of loving Me, you nailed Me to the cross."

Jesus on the Cross

And above that an inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". They wanted Him to be an earthly king. They wanted a lord with earthly power. They hoped that He would overthrow the Roman Empire. And now that their hopes were dashed, they raised Him on the Cross.

How much they were deceived! They did not have the mental strength to understand His mission. They could not understand His words. They could not grasp the spiritual material of His Kingdom. "My Kingdom is not of this world," He said earlier to Pilate. "You are a king?", he asked, surprised. "You, the unarmed, defenseless man, who bears no resemblance to Herod?" "You have said so; I do not deny it, I am a king. But not terrestrial, but heavenly. My Kingdom is a kingdom of love and peace and justice. I am the king of noble hearts. The Kingdom of God is within you".

How can the Jews understand such high meanings? Many who are baptized in His name today cannot understand the spiritual kingdom of the Lord. Those who are Christians in name, on the surface. The shallow and indifferent. Those who never made a spiritual bond with the King of souls, Jesus. Those people, who have not tasted the sweetness and serenity that the reign of King Jesus brings to their hearts.

Jesus on the Cross

And around Him are the most paradoxical contradictions. Others admire and others mock. Some are in pain and some are happy. Others sorrow and others giggle. Some sympathize and others blaspheme. Some praise and others insult. The thief repents. He recognized in the face of the innocent convict the Incarnate God. Beneath the pale but calm face he recognized the Lord of glory. But the soldiers have fun, the fools, with the crucified Redeemer, giving Him gall and vinegar.

This has always been the case ever since. Christ, according to the prophecy of Symeon, "is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against." He is the stone on which others lean and others stumble and become debris. His Cross for some is power and for others it is a foolish. For others it is a magnet that draws their souls to heavenly heights and for others the stone of scandal.

We, brethren, with what spiritual dispositions do we stand before the Cross of the Lord? With what feelings? With what thoughts? Undoubtedly we are moved before the divine drama. But how much emotion is real and how much is frivolous? How many will forget them tomorrow and return to daily conventionality, bad habits, the same spiritually indifferent way of life? How many today may cry when they see the Lord on the Cross, but tomorrow, willingly or unwillingly, will ally with His crucifiers?

O! Brethren, let us weep today, but not for our Crucified Redeemer, but for the many times that, with carelessness in our lives, we crucify Him again. To weep for our restless lives, for the easy failure of our good decisions, for the dominance of weaknesses in our lives, for the inconsistency of our lives. And let us make a firm and irrevocable decision not to offer Him gall and vinegar again, together with the peasant soldiers.

Our Crucified Redeemer,

"Every member of Your holy body endured dishonor for us. Your head endured the thorns. Your face was spat on. Your cheeks received the blows. Your mouth tasted vinegar mingled with gall. Your ears heard impious blasphemies. Your back received the scourging. Your hand held the reed. Your entire body was stretched on the Cross. Your joints were pierced by the nails, and Your side, by the spear."

With all these,

"You ransomed us from the curse of the Law by Your precious Blood. You were nailed to the Cross, and You were pierced with a spear, and You gushed forth immortality for humanity."

That is why I confess with awe,

"You were crucified for me to become the source of forgiveness for me. You were pierced in the side so that streams of life would flow out to me."

And I proclaim,

"Glory, Lord, to Your Cross and to Your Resurrection."

Source: From the book Η Εβδομάδα των Παθών, Δ΄ έκδ., Αθήνα 1983. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.