Not everyone who participates, will receive an award for being near.
26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then
“‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
A “ participation” award is a derogatory term used against the millennial generation. This is an award that is handed out not for winning or even coming second or third, but for simply turning up. You can come last and still receive an award because you ‘participated’ in the event. There is a debate around whether this is helpful because it helps self-esteem, but can also breed entitlement. Any event requires a great number of people working together in a collaborative effort to make it happen. However, at the end of the day there is a great difference between those who organise the event to those who sit on the sidelines to those who actually play the game. Anyone can enter into a stadium, even experience the highs and the lows riding the waves of the spectacle they are watching and even have some form of investment in it, but not everyone is actually playing. Participation is measured in a number of ways, but what really counts is who takes the field.
What we see in this passage is a number of different groups and individuals who are around Jesus at the time of his death. They all play a different role but very few participate in the forgiveness that Jesus won for them on the cross. The soldiers treated Jesus like the countless men before him who they had lead out and crucified, fixated on what they could gain off him (his clothes) from him. Simon from Cyrene appears to be recruited into forced labour, moved from the distant sidelines to a heavy front row seat. Even within the large crowd, they appeared to have a number of different reactions. The ‘large number included women who mourned’ because of what was happening to Jesus while others just followed along because it was interesting. And finally the two criminals who were crucified along with Jesus both had two very different reactions to the forgiveness Jesus invites us to participate in. One rejected Jesus while the other embraced him.
People participate in all sorts of ways and at all sorts of levels, but there is a big difference between sitting on the sidelines crying, cheering, or watching a team, to actually being on the field and playing the game. People have all sorts of reactions when it comes to Jesus from rejecting and respecting Him as a man to embracing Him as the true Messiah and accepting the forgiveness He offers. Forgiveness is offered to all but not everyone will receive it.
The insult of the participation award is seen as a congratulations for doing your best, because your best is not good enough to actually win something. Sadly no matter how hard we try, no matter how well we do, our best is never good enough. Jesus offers us the forgiveness of sins, our ‘participation award’, if we get off the sidelines and accept the forgiveness that He has won for us on the cross. But this does not happen if we remain on the sidelines rejecting Him and even respecting Him as a man and not as the Messiah. So where do you stand? How do you participate? Are you on the sidelines? Or are you actually participating?
Head: How have you responded to the forgiveness that Jesus has won for you?
Heart: How has your heart changed, towards God and towards people since you encountered the forgiveness of Jesus?
Hands: How can Jesus’ forgiveness help you to take action and love those around you?
Father, thank you for the forgiveness that you won on the cross. Thank you that you invite me to participate in your mission because of what you have done. Lord forgive for trying to earn your forgiveness, forgive me for trying to win on my own and without you. Please help me to see my need for your mercy and my need for your grace, so that I would love the forgiveness that you give to me and show it to others.
A song to listen to: Saved my soul
Ben Harvey Adelaide Presbyterian Church