April 02, 2021
In any story—whether in modern movies or classic literature—we celebrate the hero and despise the villain. The Lenten narrative is much like these stories. There were villains who conspired against Jesus and contributed to His demise. These villains represent us.
This story is the third and final installment of this series called “Villains of Lent.” May this story lead you to a deeper appreciation of Jesus—how He died for sinners like you and me and how the Hero died even for the villains.
Judas’ kiss had set into motion the painful string of events leading to Jesus’ demise. This kiss of death had sealed Jesus’ fate at the hands of His enemies.
In the dead of night, Jesus was arrested and brought before Caiaphas, the high priest, to face charges of blasphemy. Wanting to see an end to His alleged insanity, they took Him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, to be sentenced to death.
But Pilate wasn’t convinced of Jesus’ guilt. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said, as he washed his hands of the crime. Then he ordered an entire battalion of soldiers to take Jesus away to be crucified.
The task fell on a Roman centurion who was charged to carry out the death sentence. . .
An urgent summon from the governor jump-started my morning. The Jews arrested a highly controversial prisoner earlier that day, throwing the entire city into chaos.
“What terrible, awful thing did this man do to stir the wrath of the Jews?” This thought rushed through my head as I ran to the governor’s palace.
I reached the scene, where the angry mob overwhelmed our ears with their mad screams. I could smell the bloodlust in the air. The scorching heat of the sun singed my skin. The loud shouts of the crowd raised the adrenaline in my brain.
“Take this man away and do what you have to do!” Pilate activated the killing machine in me.
As a seasoned warrior and a high-ranking officer, I am an agent of death whose heart had been hardened by countless wars. I led thousands of executions, so I was accustomed to the sight of blood, death, and gore.
Licking my lips like a mad dog, I ordered my soldiers to take this pitiful man and prepare him for the worst day of his life. Let the torment begin.
That’s when I closely saw the face of this alleged criminal—
Wait, isn’t this their beloved teacher? Wasn’t he the one who healed the sick and fed the hungry?
What did he do that made the Jews demand for his life?
I have seen countless faces of criminals. I know a heathen when I see one. The darkness in their eyes and the disfigurement of their face give them away.
But with this man . . . all I see is compassion.
Who cares? I am a soldier. I have direct orders.
So, I stood at a distance as my soldiers carried out the order. They stripped him naked, tied him to a beam, and repeatedly struck him with a whip. You could hear his flesh stick to the metal, bone, and glass and get ripped away.
The shockwaves of pain he must have felt! His blood painted the ground red as the whip mutilated his flesh.
I watched as they mocked him. They knelt before a “king” whom they clothed with a purple robe and upon whose head they bestowed a crown of thorns.
“Hail! The King of the Jews!”
They spit on his face and hit him with a rod.
Why isn’t he fighting back? Why won’t he defend himself? Like a lamb to the slaughter, he remained silent in front of his butchers!
“That’s enough! Let’s put an end to this innocent man’s misery.”
We took him out for the crowd to see—
The famous teacher now condemned to death.
The miracle worker who raised the dead couldn’t do anything to prevent his own death.
The healer, friend, master, and defender left alone by his own followers.
The funeral march had begun under the blazing sun. The odor of sweat and blood filled the air. On the way to Golgotha, this man carried the heavy cross on his back—his eyes were scanning through the crowd that gathered to watch his crucifixion.
Was he looking for his disciples and friends? Did he see the ones he fed and healed, now clamoring for his death?
After a slow march, we’ve finally reached Golgotha. Upon my word, my soldiers tied him down to his cross; his beaten flesh forced against the thick wood.
That was it. A soldier took some rusty nails and mercilessly hammered each one through his hands and feet.
He let out a cry of agony.
The women covered their eyes.
The soldiers laughed.
The man hung on the cross. Life was slowly escaping his body with every labored breath and his energy drained away. He struggled to speak, yet what he said crushed my hardened heart.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing . . .”
The soldiers spat at him and mutilated his body! “Father, forgive them.”
The people mocked him, “Son of God, save yourself!” “Father, forgive them.”
The Jewish leaders conspired to kill him! “Father, forgive them.”
Peter denied him! “Father, forgive them.”
Judas sold him for thirty pieces of silver! “Father, forgive them.”
I have ordered his torture and crucifixion! “Father, forgive them.”
At the height of all the evil we inflicted upon him—the physical torment and the emotional pain—he prayed for our forgiveness.
What kind of man is this?
I am the one to blame, his blood is on my hands! I wasn’t just complicit to this crime. I carried out this innocent man’s death!
The man shouted for the last time, his agony echoed through the silence:
“Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.”
And with those words, he breathed his last.
What happened next scared me to death:
Darkness fell over the entire land. The earth shook and the rocks shattered. These testified to heaven’s wrath and showed creation’s agony for the crime we committed.
And, as if that wasn’t terrifying enough, tombs broke open and the bodies of those who had long died were raised from the dead.
Oh, God! What have I done???
At this, I bowed before the dead man on the cross who was hanging before me—to honor the man I killed; to worship the man for who he is.
“Truly, this was the Son of God.”
What force could be stronger than that of a hammer that drove the nails through a carpenter’s hands?
What could win over the loyalty of a seasoned soldier?
What power could touch and transform the heart of a hardened executioner?
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
Isaiah 53:5–6 (NLT)
*Inspired by true events recorded in Matthew 27:26–54, Mark 15:16–39, and Luke 23:26–48
Art by: Alexis Gabrielle Fodra