That Easter I helped crucify Jesus
Several years ago, my husband and I wrote a Christmas program for our church called The Arrival. Our premise was to portray the life of Christ from the cradle to the grave in a modern-day setting with the hope that, by stripping away cultural differences, people would be better able to connect with the truth of Scripture.
There are a million memories from that show that God still uses to speak to me, but one of them was a video scene we prerecorded for Jesus’ trial. A local judge let us use her courtroom, and real police officers paraded the man who played Jesus down the aisles like a common criminal. He was handcuffed and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.
The scene called for the judge to address Jesus just as Pilate did in Scripture and for a modern-day jury to respond just like the angry crowd in the Bible.
At the last minute, the director pulled me from my comfortable spot behind the camera and put me in the jury box with the rest of the actors portraying jury members. I knew the lines – I’d taken them directly from Scripture when I wrote the script. But I’d never said them out loud before.
Now, to make the scene believable, I’d not only have to say them, but I’d have to shout them with the rest of the jury.
The cameras started rolling and the director yelled, “Action!”
JUDGE: Are you the king of the Jews?”
JESUS: Yes, I am.
JUDGE: Don’t you hear the charges against you?
JURY: Crucify him!
JUDGE: Why? What crime has he committed?
JURY: louder Crucify him!
Then the gavel came down, the director yelled, “Cut!” and it was over. My five seconds of screen time had ended, my two lines were over, and the crew began setting up the next scene.
It’s been over twelve years since that day in the courtroom, and that scene has haunted me ever since.
It’s one thing to understand, intellectually, that Jesus had to die on the cross because of your sins. It’s quite another to physically put yourself in a jury box and scream, “Crucify him!”
In screaming those two words, I admitted the wickedness of my heart and the reality of my desperate need for grace. I’m no better than the people in the crowd who were actually there in Jesus’ presence that day. “They” did not crucify Him.
I remember reading that Mel Gibson had a similar experience when he directed his movie The Passion of the Christ. In interviews, he admitted that it was his hands that nailed Christ to the cross during the Crucifixion scene. Gibson said, “It was me that put him on the cross. It was my sins” that put him there.
If ever I’m tempted to take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted, I just close my eyes and remember the sound of my own voice sentencing my savior with the death penalty.
And if ever I’m tempted to stay in that moment, condemned in sin and shame, I just remember how Jesus responded to his self-righteous, wretched accusers: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).