Like the Jewish religious leaders, for example. The religious leaders were protectors of orthodox religion and demanded observance of the law, even in the face of Jesus’ offer of grace. They were petty and power hungry. Even Pontius Pilate observed that their envy of Jesus was the root behind their demand for crucifixion. Jesus was crucified during Passover, an observance that historians tell us was so big in the early first century that it spanned two days (Thursday and Friday). As many as 120,000 lambs were sacrificed in the Temple during Passover—so many that the blood ran down the streets.
Yet a mere half mile away from the Temple, with all of its adornments and activity, Jesus hung on the cross, the “lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world.” Paul Hewson defines religion this way. He writes, “Religion is what happens when God leaves the room. We create our own rules to fill up the empty space.” The religious leaders did not know what they were doing.
Neither did the Roman soldiers. With clenched fists, the muscle of the Roman government proceeded to take Jesus’ life by force. Little did they realize that he was giving his life willingly. Some of the soldiers threw dice on the ground beneath the cross, gambling for Jesus’ tunic. Ironically, they were fighting for the one material possession of Christ as he fought for the one eternal possession they had—their very souls. The Roman soldiers did not know what they were doing.
We should include those who were casually passing by that day, casting private judgment on the activity they witnessed. Lest we forget, Jesus was crucified publicly because the Roman Empire believed that public capitol punishment served as a deterrent to crime. In our imagination, we can see them with their arms crossed, shaking their heads in disgust. They did not know what they were doing.
But what if we go ahead and insert ourselves into the scene? Do we know what we’re doing? Are we aware of our need for forgiveness? Are we aware of the cost of forgiveness? After all, why is forgiveness associated with death? What is the correlation between death and forgiveness? Do we know what we’re doing? Do we know how often we take the gifts of God for granted? Do we know how flippant we are about our sin? Do we realize how helpless we are to help ourselves? Do we admit we are not in control? We are not masters of our own fate? We cannot save ourselves? We have no answer to the problem of death? We don’t know what we’re doing. But thankfully God does know what he’s doing. Jesus did not die on the cross in order to fix you. He did not die to make bad people good. He came to give dead people life. He came to save you from sin and yourself. The humble admission: “I don’t know what I’ve done…I don’t know what I’m doing” is the act of humility that brings forgiveness into your life.