The Via Dolorosa ~ Indescribable Forgiveness
Let’s reset the scene once more. Prior to Jesus being nailed to the cross and hoisted in the air for all to see he has experienced three different beatings, he has been spit upon, he has had a crown of thorns smashed down upon his head and he’s been stripped naked. He is surrounded by vultures – both real and metaphorical. The latter crack jokes, they mock, they accuse, they throw out blasphemous dares and bets. As Jesus looks down he sees the crusted remains and bones of the formerly executed. The stench is overwhelming. Just as the carrion pick at the dead flesh of the cadavers, the Romans pick through the remains of the last of Jesus’ earthly possessions. There is a rollicking game of dice going on amongst the soldiers to see who gets what. The most tedious of all are the religious leaders. There is a look of triumph on their face. They had completed a threat assessment and concluded that Jesus was the primary source of their low poll numbers. The corporate holdings in their booming religious portfolio would no longer be at risk. This hillbilly charlatan would be dead in a few hours and they could return to business as usual.
To force this much shame on an average human being would be enough to do the job. The physical pain matched with the humiliation would achieve a resignation, a bowed head, a cessation of protest. Yet, Jesus holds fast his gaze. The shame is theirs, not his. As he takes it all in he speaks the very words that highlight the genius of this, our faith: Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” ~Luke 23:34
The reason we’ve spent so many writings getting a sense of the entire setting of Station 11 of the Via Dolorosa is to capture the enormity of this very moment – this very sentence. You see, it really doesn’t matter what you say you believe, or think you believe, or that you even really believe it when you say what you think – this expression of grace produces a pause in believers and unbelievers alike. It is so unexpected and so gracious that we find it completes the very definition of the words grace and mercy. This is what those words mean. We need look no further.