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Crucify him!

Sculpture of Jesus with the cross in the Chapel of the Flagellation, on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

Sculpture of Jesus with the cross in the Chapel of the Flagellation, on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

“Crucify him! Crucify him!” I shouted with the crowd.  People surged forward towards the Roman soldiers holding Jesus, crying “crucify him!” – whipping the crowd into a standing frenzy. We were the crowd in Jerusalem, and we wanted blood.

How easily my teenage self stepped into the part, swept up into the spectacle, something like a scene of out of Lord of the Flies!

It was many years ago, but the scene is fresh in my memory.  A Passion Play in an open air stone amplitheatre in Florida.  Surrounded by palm trees, a warm breeze, dark sky studded with stars, actors dressed in first century costumes and sandals. Jesus whipped and bleeding.

The actor were quietly intermingled with the audience, so that we all became the crowd. We shouted, chanted, we wept, we rejoiced. But what I remember most is shouting “crucify him!”

Then Jesus crucified in a flash of brilliant bright light suddenly extinguished, dropping us into black night with a clap of thunder.

Each time I read the passion I re-live that night. My gut remembers being horrified at what I was shouting, frightened at how easily I was swept along with the crowd demanding blood. I hope, I pray, that I would have the courage to do the right thing and stand up against the mob in real life.

But if there was danger and violence, if I was truly afraid, I think it is more likely that I would step away.  Maybe I would say a silent prayer and disappear into the shadows, just like most of the disciples.

And, in my apologetic silence, would I be whispering “crucify him” all over again?

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