On the way to Calvary
By Glenn E. Porter Sr., M.Div., D.Min.
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
— Luke 23:44–46
Peace is costly, but it is worth the expense.
— Kenyan proverb
Jesus has been on his way to Calvary even before he preached his initial sermon at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus has always been on his way toward the cross. During Holy Week, the events of Jesus’ life seem to coalesce in a rush — from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to his unjust, brutal and agonizing crucifixion at Golgotha, to his victorious and glorious rising from the dead on Resurrection Sunday (Easter).
In his poem “My God! My God!” theologian Howard Thurman focused squarely on Jesus’ crucifixion moment:
He wondered had he missed the way.
Could it be true that he was sure of God
But God not sure of him?…
He remembered the Cup
And the long night beneath the olive trees.
“This is the Cup; not Death!
To yield the right to prove the Truth
As if it could not stand alone.
This is the Cup; not Death!
Father, into Thy Hands, I give my life.”
Everything — the miracles, messages, and moments together — all point toward this providential period in history.
From Jesus’ ignoble birth in Bethlehem and childhood in Nazareth . . .
From the time he begins his ministry in Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people . . .
From the time he confronts the elite who support themselves on the backs of the poor . . . folk living hungry, malnourished, surviving hand to mouth, impoverished and under the foot of political, military and economic control . . .
The journey has come to this horrible, grotesque, dreadful and yet necessary moment when Jesus Christ becomes the paschal lamb who is sacrificed for the salvation of all humanity. He pays the price in blood to redeem the world.
The steps of Jesus led to this passion, this suffering for everybody, including (and especially) those whom social commentator and VH1 Live host Marc Lamont Hill would describe as society’s “Nobody” — in other words, society’s most vulnerable who are often viewed as disposable.
For them and for us, Jesus breathed his last.
On Holy Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, Jesus’ broken body rested in the tomb. His disciples huddled in shock and grief. The earth mourned the darkness with the Light of the world extinguished.
And then came Sunday.
The dawn of the new day revealed “the stone rolled away from the tomb” (Luke 24:2), and the body of Jesus was not there. The journey with Jesus has culminated with history’s greatest event: “He is risen!”
He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah!
Glenn E. Porter Sr. is senior pastor at Queen Street Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va.; an adjunct associate professor of religious studies at Tidewater Community College, Norfolk; and volunteer chaplain with the City of Norfolk Police Department. This piece was adapted with permission from his book “Journey with Jesus through Lent” (Judson Press, 2017).
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The views expressed are those of the author or authors alone, and not those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.