As we read the various parts of the passion, we can see all the many sins of the people. It is a long list: pride, making false promises, selfishness, betrayal, fighting, lying, passing the buck, taunting, injustice, ridiculing, regretting. On and on. Each individual and group played their part and each individual and group committed their sin.
It is easy for us to point the finger at the apostles, the religious leaders, and the Romans and number their sins. It is simple to see how weak Peter was, how wretched Judas was, how petty the disciples could be. There is also no issue condemning the religious leaders – those Christ killers – or the Romans and their inhumanity. It is easy to look back on these individuals and groups and place blame for the events of that day. However, it is very difficult to look in a mirror and do the same.
A friend of mine once pointed out that the devil only has so many tricks. Unfortunately for us, we just keeping falling for the same ones time and time again. If we examine our lives, as we are called to do during the season of Lent, we will likely discover instances of pride, selfishness, betrayal, injustice, regret – all the same sins those individuals and groups committed in the events surrounding the death of Jesus.
If we examine our lives and are honest with ourselves, we know that David spoke for all of us when he wrote the words of Psalm 51:
I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
We know our transgressions. They are ever before us. With them before, we also know that we will be judged according to our actions. Near the end of the Book of Revelation, John writes, “I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it… And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books…. all were judged according to what they had done…. and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” It is only a fool who does not fear that day.
“Christ will come again” and we as his bride look with great joy and anticipation for the day of his return, yet, when it comes to standing in judgment before the throne of God… I’m not so sure. So, what will you say to God in your defense? How will you answer when God the Father says to you, “Explain yourself.”
Thomas à Kempis, in his work, On the Passion of Christ, provides us with what I think may be the perfect answer: “Most Holy Father, look upon the face of your Christ, hanging on the Cross for me, and in view of your only-begotten Son’s exceptional merits, his being pierced with nails and being covered with his own red blood, be merciful to me a sinner, bound and chained as I am to my many sins. He was wounded to wipe away my iniquities, and he will offer you satisfaction for all my sins and will answer to you in my stead. I offer him to you as a hostage; I choose him as my advocate; I assign him as my mediator; I designate him as defender of my cause. If acceptable to you, he, the blessed fruit of the Virgin’s womb, will make good all my omissions and rectify all my past commissions.”
Our sin will ever be before us, but on the day of judgment, with the Cross as His witness, our mediator, advocate, and the defender of our cause, Jesus the Christ, will stand in our place; and when God the Father says, “Explain yourself, “ Jesus will respond, “Forgiven,” and that long list of sins will be erased.
Ask Jesus to write your name in the book of life and to speak for you on the day of judgment. The means for Him to do so has already been accomplished, it is only your asking that is required.
Let us pray: Most loving Savior, may your last word from the Cross be also our final words in this life. When we are no longer able to utter another word, let this express our definitive desire: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. O Lord, God of Truth, you have redeemed me. Amen.”