April 13, 2024

Homily Ten on the Passion (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily Ten on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 25, 1951)

They began to beat our Lord Jesus Christ and the Savior of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was then struck on the cheeks, He was pushed, He was dragged to Jerusalem with beatings.

This was the beginning of the slaughter of the One who saved the world.

And the continuation was with the high priest Caiaphas, there, in the assembly of Christ’s worst enemies, they mocked Him, beat Him, covering His face and boldly asking: “Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck You?” and spat on Him.

The bullying continued all night, they beat the Lord all night, and early in the morning they took him to the praetorium to Pilate for trial.

You heard about this unjust trial in the Gospel reading, you heard that Pilate, although he was convinced of the Lord’s innocence, even moreover considered Him a righteous man, nevertheless, frightened by the cries of an angry crowd demanding His crucifixion, he handed Him over to be scourged.

And something terrifying began, for you need to know, you need to imagine what this terrible Roman scourging was like. The whip with which the unfortunates were beaten had a short handle and a whole bunch of straps, tightly woven and intertwined with copper wire, and pieces of bone were tied into these whips in places.

With this terrible scourge they beat the Lord Jesus on his back.

The scourging was so terrible that those scourged often died from it. During the scourging, the blood of the unfortunates flowed in a stream, pieces of skin and muscles were torn off.

And our Redeemer suffered this from the power of the devil, and He endured this for all of us, the cursed and sinners.

The terrible scourging ended, they took off His purple robe, but probably left the crown of thorns, which they fashioned with a stick so that the thorns of the crown would pierce the holy head of the Lord, and large drops of blood would flow down His face.

They then led Him to execution, they led Him along a narrow street, for all the streets of eastern cities are narrow. This street still bears the name given to it by Roman Catholics: Via Dolorosa - the Way of Sorrow.

Along this sorrowful path they drove the Lord Jesus, placing a heavy cross on Him, for the one condemned to crucifixion himself had to carry his terrible cross to the place of execution.

The Lord Jesus Christ carried it for a short time and fell under the weight of the cross... They forced him up with beatings, and again forced him to carry the cross, but He kept falling and falling.

Then, seeing that He could not carry the cross, they stopped a certain Simon of Cyrene, who was returning from his field, and he was ordered to carry the cross of Christ.

Oh, blessed Simon, did you know what cross you were carrying? Of course he didn't know. And now he knows, since for bearing the cross of Christ he, I have no doubt, has been awarded the Kingdom of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ was accompanied by a huge crowd of people, for it was the days of Passover, and on these days a huge crowd of people gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. About one hundred thousand people gathered.

A huge crowd followed the Lord Jesus. There were men there, there were women there too. Both of them had different attitudes to what they saw, to how the Lord Jesus was tormented and tortured. The women cried, weeping bitter tears, they sobbed. They wept, for their hearts were soft and sensitive. They could not see such suffering, such desecration of the Sinless One. And the Lord, seeing them and hearing their crying, opened His lips, which had been silent for a long time, and said to them:

"Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!' For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:28–31).

They did this to the green wood, full of life, to the Bearer of life, to the Giver of it, what will happen to the dry tree of the Jewish people, who rejected the Messiah, betrayed Him to such a terrible, such an unimaginably painful execution, what will happen to it?

We know what happened to it, we know how these prophetic and terrible words of Christ came true over Jerusalem. We know how the Roman generals Vespasian and then Titus came and destroyed all of Jerusalem and the Temple of Jerusalem to the ground.

We read from the Jewish historian Josephus, contemporary to Christ, what indescribable horrors happened then, how terrible the punishment was for the people who crucified their Messiah.

This came true, as every word of God should come true.

Let's leave the women, let them weep with pure tears. Let's look at the men, at this huge crowd accompanying Jesus, at those who surrounded Him closely when the narrow street Via Dolorosa ended and went out onto the hill of Golgotha.

What kind of people are these? What was going on in their souls? How, how could they rejoice at what they saw? How could the same people who just six days ago greeted the Lord Jesus with great joy and glorified Him at His entry into Jerusalem shouting: “Hosanna in the highest!” spreading their clothes under the feet of the donkey on which He was sitting - how could they, these same people, wildly cry out to Pilate: “Crucify him, crucify him!”?

What is this? How can we understand the strange transformation of their hearts, which recently glorified them, but now with brutality wildly demand crucifixion?

I'll try to explain this with my weak mind.

All those who carefully read the Gospel, and especially the fourth Gospel of John, should know that the Lord, with His words previously unheard of by the world, amazed and confused people. They should know that He called Himself the bread of life that came down from heaven, and said that it was necessary for salvation for people to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood.

These words deeply confused the people, led them to bewilderment and aroused rage in many. When they heard that He described Himself as Descended from Heaven, they grabbed stones to beat Him, considering Him a blasphemer.

These words of Jesus were so out of place in the consciousness of people, they were so unbearable and incomprehensible to them that even many of His followers, His disciples, who always followed Him, moved away from Him and stopped following Him.

And the Lord turned to His closest twelve apostles with the question: “Do you also want to leave?”

Blessed Peter answered for everyone: “Lord! Who should we go to? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:67–68).

So, throughout the life of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth, the minds of the Jews were tormented by contradictory thoughts: on the one hand, they saw that this was the greatest miracle worker, and then, when they heard words about His Divinity that did not fit into their consciousness, they grabbed stones to stone Him, considering these words blasphemy.

So, the confusion of minds was great and deep.

And the people were then led by their religious leaders - the high priests, scribes and Pharisees, who were considered the bearers of indisputable truth, whom the people were accustomed to follow and without hesitation accepted on faith everything they heard from them.

The minds and hearts of the Jews were tormented, divided, not knowing what to believe. On the one hand, they saw the greatest miracle worker, who commands the waves of the sea, raises the dead, fed five thousand people with five loaves, and who heals the sick.

On the other hand, we heard vicious, hateful accusations by the high priests against the Lord Jesus that He was blaspheming and breaking the law of Moses.

And so, while the Lord Jesus Christ was in power and glory, the people for the most part followed Him, but when He was arrested, beaten, condemned to death, when they saw Him having lost all His strength, then a herd feeling flared up in their hearts, like the one which leads the animals, pouncing on the weak and defeated and with the whole pack tormenting him to death. Likewise, people immediately lose respect and love for even the most worthy and honorable person if he is subjected to ridicule and humiliation.

This is what was in the hearts of the people who followed Jesus to Golgotha - they succumbed to the wild herd mentality: oh, you are beaten, you are defeated! They beat you, so we will persecute you, we will curse you, and we, together with the high priests and scribes, will shout to you: “Save Yourself. If You are the Son of God...” (Matthew 27:40).

This is what happened, this is the great power the leaders of the people of Israel had over this people, who completely succumbed to what these leaders wanted and demanded, succumbing even to the point of demanding execution, even to the terrible cry: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

This is the only explanation I can give you.

So, an indescribable horror took place: the Lord was nailed to the cross, the Lord suffered the most fierce, most terrible of all executions that human malice could invent.

The Lord endured these terrible torments for six hours. Six hours later He gave up His spirit with a cry that the world should never forget: “It is finished!”

Why did Christ die so soon?

We know that those crucified often suffered for three days, even up to six days, before they died.

Why? Because He was sick. It was not only because He was tortured by scourging that He could not bear His cross.

On a cold night in the Garden of Gethsemane, and later with the high priests and in the courtyard of the praetorium, he had a cold and was sick.

We even know what He was sick with, but I won’t talk about it. Believe that He was sick.

Of course, the ninth hour came, and darkness fell over all the land. The sun darkened and hid its rays. The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The people, who had recently demanded His execution, dispersed from Golgotha, hanging their heads low and beating their chests.

Let us also go, hanging our heads low, let us also remember that for our sins, as for the sins of all mankind, the Savior endured these terrible torments and sufferings. Let's go, hanging our heads and beating our chests!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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