When Mercy Triumphs Over Violence

cross & blood

A man walked into a large hall. He had just endured a sleepless night. Betrayed by a confidant; abandoned by his closest friends.

He was spat at, whipped, beaten, bloodied, mocked. They shoved a crown of curse upon his brow.

Now he was forced to carry a timber bar on his back, the device that would ensure his death. He could not make it to his place of capital torture, crashing to the ground in weakness.

Spikes driven through wrists and feet. Blow after blow with mallet. Flesh split; nerves severed; screams abounded.

The pictures betray us. The man was not hanging there alone. The masses were present. It was capital punishment at its finest. But there was no veiled window to sit behind until the time of execution. Plenty watched – some in jest; some in utter horror; some in blood lust.

There were two criminals – one hanging on the man’s right; another on his left. Again, capital punishment. Efficient capital punishment. Let’s get rid of three at a time.

What is going through this man’s mind?

Blood, sweat, humiliation, searing hot pain.

Perhaps he deserves this. What fool, what regime, what system would execute an innocent man?

But the evidence compiled had failed the test. It was a simple grasping at straws. One would imagine those straws being crushed under scrutiny. But judgment had already been decided beforehand. The man was guilty.

Blood, sweat, humiliation, searing hot pain.

What is going through this man’s mind?

He speaks the most intriguing words.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Injustice. Piercing violence. Outright barbarity.

This calls for retaliation, retribution, revenge.

All others would have lashed out. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.

We know. We’ve been there. We’ve done that.

It’s a mountain to climb in getting our heads around this. Not the ethereal idea of forgiveness 2,000 years later. But the response of the crucified one in the midst of his brutal, public capital punishment.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Tears roll down my eyes when I watch the innocent, John Coffey, electrocuted in The Green Mile. It’s one of the few movies that brings me to tears.

The story of this man on a Roman cross and his death is of infinitely more worth.

Somehow mercy triumphed over violence that day.

Somehow mercy triumphed over retaliation that day.

Somehow mercy triumphed over retribution that day.

Violence does not bring restoration. It never has.

Violence does not bring reconciliation. It never has.

Violence does not bring redemption. It never has.

But mercy.

Mercy opens to the door to restoration, reconciliation, redemption.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Father, forgive us.

Help us to see where we deeply fail to embrace what really happened at the cross – mercy and forgiveness triumphing over violence and retribution.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

 

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