Do you identify with Pilate at all? I wonder if some of you do.
He didn’t show any malice towards Jesus. No ill will. In fact, he could say that he had some healthy respect for him, and even had a good idea that Jesus was innocent. But Pilate — and perhaps you’re like this — Pilate had goals for his career and his life. And he had fears. And because of these, he decides that Jesus had to go. His goals and his fears made Jesus very inconvenient.
And then there’s Thomas. Do you identify with him? You might know him as doubting Thomas, doubting that Jesus really rose from the dead. But that’s part of the Easter story and we’re not there yet. Before that there was a moment when Thomas looked exceptionally courageous. Jesus turned towards Judea and Jerusalem, and Thomas knew the dangers going back to where Jesus was nearly stoned. And Thomas said, “Let us go back and die…” A courageous, willing martyr. But in the end Thomas prefers to flee. If only he had more faith, if only he valued Jesus more, he would have stayed at Jesus’ side. Through thick and thin.
Perhaps you can identify with Malchus. Who is Malchus? When Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant Malchus, cutting off his ear. Jesus rebukes Peter and heals Malchus. How can one identify with Malchus? Malchus is injured by the great apostle Peter, by a Christian, even we might say, church leadership. Perhaps you have a similar history — but I hope you know the difference between Peter and Jesus. And you know it is Jesus who heals. Can you identify with Malchus?
I’m sure many of you can identify with other people involved in Good Friday. But here’s the really important point – what truly matters in this true historical drama is which person identified with you. And that is Jesus. It is he who identified with your guilt. With your shame. It is he who identified with your plight. With your miseries. And it is he who identified with the value you have in the sight of God. And that is the message of Good Friday and the cross — the Son of God choosing to identify with you, with me, by dying in our place.