I love music, and Easter seems like a particularly appropriate time to revel in it. For this reason my husband and I drove to a church in a nearby city to attend an Easter musical performed by that church’s actors and choir members in full costume, and accompanied by a live orchestra. We anticipated a joyous, Easter celebration.
The musical was the story of a Roman centurion, Anthony, who was struggling to understand just who the man, Jesus, really was. In the beginning Anthony was indifferent, unable to grasp his fellow-officers’ agitation with the insignificant teacher from Galilee. He observed from a distance, witnessing several miracles.
Later, though, Anthony approached Jesus, boldly asking him to heal his servant who was near death. Jesus told Anthony that his faith was great, and for that reason the servant was healed. It was true, Anthony’s servant came running to announce his good news of health restored. As Anthony expressed his gratitude, Jesus merely looked at him and said, “Follow me.”
But how could he? Anthony’s life was invested in the Roman army. His family, his livelihood, even his very life were threatened if he admitted to his new-found faith. So Anthony believed, but he didn’t follow.
As Jesus healed the sick, the deaf, and the lame and forgave the sins of the adulteress I felt my throat tighten. Later, the same crowd (in this case the choir) that had welcomed Him into Jerusalem with hosannas only a week earlier called out to Pilate, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” I blinked back the tears threatening to roll down my cheeks. How could they be so fickle?
Then Pilate turned to Anthony, the centurion, and washing his own hands of the affair, commanded Anthony to oversee Christ’s scourging. Sadly, a conflicted Anthony complied. And though he was not an active participant in the scourging, it was his inaction that was largely responsible for the events that followed. True, others inflicted the wounds upon Jesus’ flesh. But Anthony, believer in Jesus, recipient of God’s mercy, who now understood and later professed, “Surely this man is the Son of God,” stood by, his uniform clearly identifying him as a follower of Caesar, and therefore a crucifier of Jesus Christ. Nobody would have guessed that Anthony believed in Jesus, the Son of God.
As Jesus endured insults and beatings and stumbled beneath the weight of the cross, one of the soldiers ordered a man from the audience to help Jesus carry the cross, and a twenty-first century spectator stepped back through the ages, still dressed in blue jeans; however, when he returned to his seat his blue oxford shirt was stained with Jesus’ “blood.”
That is when the Easter story, so old and so often re-told, suddenly became new and real. This contemporary, a casual observer like myself, was pulled effortlessly into the action from his place in the crowd and unwittingly helped to crucify the Lord Jesus. Anthony, who believed, yet refused to exercise his faith assisted in Jesus’ death as well.
Am I much different from Anthony? Sure, I believe in Jesus. Of course I’m a Christian –a Christ-follower. Or am I? Would I risk my name, my job, my security, my reputation, my life to follow Him? Would anyone readily identify a wretch like me as a follower of Christ? Christ’s crucifiers were not merely those who inflicted the wounds. No, those of us who stood by shared in the guilt as well. This I pondered throughout the remainder of the musical.
Forgiveness and reconciliation were portrayed through the words Jesus spoke from the cross, “Father, forgive them…” convincing Anthony and myself that even a state of inaction, a failure to follow, is forgivable. Praise God! He arose, victorious over death and sin! Hallelujah!
As the final strains of music ended, the director turned and faced the audience, now thunderous in their applause. Only moments ago his hands had skillfully drawn harmonious praise from the hearts and souls of the now silent group of musicians. Now he closed his eyes, those same hands raised, reflecting all glory and praise heavenward to God, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is worthy of all of our praise and who bids us still, “Follow me.”
The musical I referred to today is “Bow The Knee” by Chris Machen. I am sharing this for the Tuesday meme, “In Other Words” for the quote below:
"I am the wretch the song refers to."
In Other Words is hosted today by Esthermay at her blog, The Heart of a Pastor’s Wife.