As Jesus hung on the cross, there were many bystanders. There was a passive audience watching His trauma unfold and continue. Some heard His cries and said, “Let Him alone.” “Let us see if Elijah will come and save Him.” (Matt. 27:49) They not only did nothing, they withheld verbal compassion from a suffering fellow human being.
“Leave them alone.” “ Stay out of it.” “It's none of my business.” “I'm not my brother's keeper.” “She is reaping what she has sown.” “It's not my job.” “ God will help them if they have faith.” How often do we choose to look away from the traumatized? “Despised and rejected by men...and we hid our faces from Him.” (Isaiah 53:3) Jesus knows what that feels like, when even His Heavenly Father had to turn His face away from viewing all the vile sinful evil that was upon Him. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46) Jesus may have been speaking not only of His Father, but also of His “followers.” Why had they turned their backs on Him in His neediest hour?
Nowhere in Scripture does it record any of His followers pleading for His life. If I had been there, would I have done anything different? Would I have gone to the chief priest and pleaded for Him? Would I have have asked others to come with me? Would I have had the boldness to approach the same governor who condemned Him to death? Would I have organized a massive prayer rally around the place of His torture so that He could take some comfort in knowing He was not utterly alone?
The pain of emotional abandonment from those closest to Him was almost as deep as the physical abuse Jesus had endured. Not only did they hide from Him, “..they did not esteem Him...(Is. 53:3) worthy; not worth their time and effort. Not worth a watchful eye, a listening ear, compassionate care. He was brokenhearted for us, yet we did not esteem Him worthy of honor.
Although it was late, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, stepped forward. He had kept his devotion to Jesus a secret until now, requesting the honor of caring for His broken and bloody body. (Matt. 27:58-60) It took enormous courage for him to face the Roman authorities and to take a public stand contrary to his fellow high priests. He put aside fear for his own safety, (he could have also been accused and arrested) and gave preference to the One who suffered greatly for his sake. “Let each one esteem the other more highly than himself.” (Phil. 2:3) He laid Him in his own personal tomb at his own personal expense.
Giving preference to one another is easy when we expect to be honored for it. But we are called to dispense unconditional worth and value to the lives of those who may appear as if they are worth less, regardless of the cost. We are called to be bold, to be present, and to execute compassionate care. To offer a simple act. Or a simple word. To “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)