Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them.
The Cross, with its violence and repulsive evil, grieves us. We revolt at the injustice of the entire sham, an innocent man with such a pure heart subjected to torture and humiliation while powerful men schemed and plotted. However, as much as the gore and the malfeasance disturb me, Jesus's utter aloneness disturbs me even more. As Jesus stumbled along that cobblestone road, his bloodied back bore the weight of this wooden cross—a cross he carried all by himself. The Cross, Jesus understood, was where he would face the vilest horrors: abandonment and isolation.
Hours previous, Jesus prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading with the Father while his companions snoozed. In the hours to come, one of his dearest friends would vehemently insist that he didn't even know Jesus's name. Even as Jesus hung between two thieves, neither could appreciate what Jesus endured. Of course, grieving souls will tell you that loneliness arrives even when surrounded by people. At the end, Jesus's mournful words give voice to his heartache. Jesus cried out for a Father who seemed to have disappeared (Matt. 27:46). Lent is a time when we enter our lonely places, into the questions that isolate us, into the shames and addictions that are hidden to others' eyes. In Lent, we take up the cross that only we can bear and, with Jesus, we step into the narrow corner where we fear we may be finally undone.
When we arrive in that lonely place, we make a startling discovery: Jesus is there. Jesus carried his cross alone and Jesus died alone so that we will never have to suffer such heavy solitude. Jesus experienced a kind of aloneness that we never will. We need not fear the dark, solitary spaces; God is there.
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