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Lessons from four characters around the cross on humanity

 Catholic Archbishop Phillip Anyolo leads faithful in the 'Way of the Cross Walk' to mark Good Friday along Parliament road, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

If you are a Bible-believing Christian like me, this week is one of the most solemn in your calendar.

It is the week when the ultimate sacrifice for human redemption was made by the Creator, forming the basis for the Christian faith.

The latter has been a force not just for personal transformation, but also for public good, albeit with a few unfortunate skeletons in its long history.

The Bible accounts of the “passion week”, as it known, exhibits several types of people; what have been variably called “characters around the cross”.

This week, I want to focus on four of those characters and the lessons they teach us about human character and life generally. The first of these characters is the fickle crowd. When Christ entered Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion, the crowds were ecstatic.

Although he came on a donkey, they understood prophecy to know that this was their promised King.

They not only laid palms on the ground for Him to walk on (hence Palm Sunday) but they proclaimed, “Hosanna to the highest”, wanting to crown Him King on the spot.

Have we not seen those crowds especially around the election season; they can literally kill for their identified candidate. Five days later, the same crowd was screaming for Christ’s head at Pilate’s house. They wanted Him crucified, even as Pilate tried to convince them of His innocence.

Given an option, they demanded freedom for Barabbas, the criminal insurrectionist rather than Christ; Him who had fed them and healed their sick.

This is the true human condition, loyal and devoted in one week and viciously opposed the next week. Lesson: never depend on the enthusiasm of the crowds, they are fickle. The same ones singing “Blessed” will scream “Crucify” within no time.

The other character around the cross is Pilate. If there ever was defect of character in leadership, Pilate was it. When the arrested Christ was brought before Him, he knew that Christ was innocent. He said so severally.

Lacking the courage of his convictions, he sought ways to pander to the crowd, seeking compromises that would enable him follow his conscience but still please the Jews and keep his job.

In the process he even got Christ brutalised, hoping this would satisfy the blood thirsty crowd, but to no avail. How many people in positions of leadership do we know who are more concerned with pleasing the crowds and keeping their privileges than doing what is right? Is that not the problem with African leadership?

The desire to win votes in the next election cycle makes our leaders do that which is detrimental to the nation as long as it keeps the crowds loyal. This calls for more strength of character in leadership! The third set of characters around the cross are hardly spoken about.

The book of John records that as Christ hung on the cross dying, one man and 4 women stayed in the vicinity, totally heart broken.

By this time, all the other people closest to Jesus had run away to escape the wrath of the murderous crowd. Some of His closest allies, like Peter, had already denied Him, not wanting to pay the price of association.

But these 5, despite the dangers to themselves stuck to the end. How everyone needs 4 Marys and one John in their lives. People willing to stand by you, whatever the risk to their reputation and even lives.

The final character around the cross is Judas. For 4 or so years, Judas had stayed with Christ. He had experienced Him and learnt from Him. He had seen Him heal the sick and perform numerous miracles.

He had seen Christ’s divinity revealed. But the temptation of the shilling was overwhelming. The possibility of immediate financial riches overpowered all that Judas had seen and known.

In the end his name will be remembered in infamy. How many of us sacrifice principle and truth for monetary advantage? How unfortunate that many of us will willingly sacrifice our dearest principles for the dollar!

There are many lessons to learn from the Holy Week, but nothing speaks more to the human condition than these and other characters around the cross. Happy Easter.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya

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