I saw a TV show yesterday in which one of the bad guys was executed. Actually, it’s one of those shows in which almost everyone is a bad. The good guys are, in essence, the best of the evil ones. I believe they call them “anti-heroes.” But I digress.
This particular adversary was sitting on the john when he was accosted by our (ahem) hero. The assailer put two or three shots into the man’s body that would not cause death—at least, not right away. After giving up the required information, our villain begged to be allowed to stand up and leave the loo. He didn’t want to die an embarrassing death on the toilet.
The gunman was not in the mood to grant the antagonist’s dying wish, and he shot him where he stood. Excuse me—where he sat. As evil as this character was, I had to feel at least a wee bit sorry for him.
I’ve never given much thought to how I might leave this earth. Now that I’ve viewed the aforementioned scene, I’m more inclined to peruse the possible scenarios of my future demise. I don’t think I’ll dwell on them, but some fleeting thoughts might be in order. I’m guessing our actions may have a bearing on how we depart this life.
All of that leads me to thoughts of Jesus. If you’ve ever read anything about crucifixion, you know that it was one of the most embarrassing ways to die ever devised. Cicero called it a “disgusting punishment,” and “atrociously cruel.” It’s where we derive our term, “excruciating.” Part of the humiliation was that you were hung naked before the world. The Romans didn’t invent it, but they perfected its torturous details. It was so bad that they made it illegal to crucify a Roman citizen. It was reserved for the lowliest of convicts.
“Let This Cup Pass”
Jesus not only knew he was going to die by that means; he almost seemed to welcome it. He certainly didn’t attempt to avoid it. Other than the prayer to his heavenly Father (“Let this cup pass from me…Matthew 26:39), he did things that led to his capture. If you read the Gospel accounts, you’ll see that he didn’t hide. He sent Judas out to betray him; then he went to an olive grove to pray. He knew his hour had come, and he made it easy for his pursuers to locate him.
Not only was crucifixion an embarrassing way to die, it was an embarrassment to the victim’s family and friends. It was a shameful way to go and a blot on the reputation of anyone associated with the crucified one. Yet, the early church made it a point to laud the cross of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). It has often been referred to as the “Glory of the Cross.”
Only God could turn that kind of embarrassment into glory.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]