Holy Week – Thursday – John 19:1-6
Read John 19:1-6
Have you ever been wrongly accused? Unjustly punished and embarrassed?
Admittedly, I have done things in my past where I was rightly accused and justly punished. Yet, I do remember a time in May 1997 when I was caught up in a situation that was both embarrassing and avoidable.
Picture this: I am reporting aboard my new duty station, a Navy Destroyer. The ship was one month into a six month NATO deployment in the Mediterranean Sea. I meet the ship in the Province of Cagliari, situated in the southern part of Sardinia Italy. After checking in and unpacking a Senior Chief Petty Officer, that had helped me find my rack in Chief Petty Officer berthing, invited me to hit the town with him and another Chief.
Remember, I am the new guy and knew no one. We were off the ship a few hours, exploring the town, particularly the bars. At this point of my life I admit I was no teetotaler, but I knew better than to drink heavily on my first night at a new command.
As the night comes to an end we make our way to the designated bus stop where we will be transported back to the ship. There are 25 to 30 sailors waiting on the bus. I chose to sit on a curb off by myself, partially because I was tired from travel and partially to avoid interaction with a mostly intoxicated crowd.
It was during the wait that a disagreement between two sailors became increasingly loud and vulgar. I observed until it seemed that one of those involved was on the verge of approaching the other. I sensed that physical contact was a real possibility. I looked around hoping someone that knew the two would step in, but quickly realized that was not going to happen. I felt a sense of obligation to try and defuse the situation so I stood and “asked” the aggressor to calm down. He then turned his wrath in my direction and with a skillful flurry of profanity and noticeably balled fist, came toward me. My hopes that I could step in and prevent the situation from getting worse vanished. So I stepped back in a defensive stance and prepared for the worse.
It was then that my new friend and liberty buddy for the night decided to perk-up and get involved. He restrained the drunken sailor and escorted him as far away from the crowd (and me) as he could until the bus arrived. I was very relieved thinking it was over and all is well.
The bus eventually arrived and carried us back to the ship. To my surprise, as I boarded my Senior Chief friend was waiting on me and, through slurred speech, asked that I surrender my I.D. card. I was astonished, embarrassed, and disappointed. I had no doubt that I was, by far, the only sober person involved. All I had done, was what I considered to be my duty, and attempt to defuse a bad situation and prevent a new shipmate from making a huge mistake.
The next morning, my first on my new ship, I am called to the Captain’s Cabin to explain myself. All he knew was that I was involved in an alcohol related incident on foreign soil, my first few hours assigned to his command. After appropriately chastising me, he listen to my account of the story. It became obvious that the Skipper had experience with and knowledge of the drinking habits and tempers of the others involved. He returned my I.D., told me he understood my actions and sent me on my way.
Although I suffered no official repercussions for the events of that first evening, I had to earn the trust of my new Commanding Officer over time.
In no way am I comparing this story to the accusations and punishments Christ experienced, except to offer a contrast. In hindsight, my incident had little to no effect on my life or career. And when I stood with the good intentions of breaking up a fight, it never crossed my mind that I might be in jeopardy of facing accusations and punishment.
Christ, on the other hand, knew exactly what he faced. He knew, and willing accepted, the consequences of facing Pontius Pilate. Our God embraced humanity and stepped between our Sin and eternal death. God in Jesus the Christ became the necessary sacrifice so that we may have a path to salvation through the repentance of our sins. Jesus wore the crown of thorns, experienced the excruciating pain of the soldiers whip, made the long walk with cross on his back, was nailed and hung on that same cross. He faced accusations and chose punishment he did not deserve. And he did this for you and for me.
PRAYER FOCUS: self-reflection, repentance, atonement, forgiveness.
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