Jesus Nailed to the Cross, Mark 15:22-27

Cheryl Glassman, St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church
Cheryl Glassman

The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning “Skull Hill.” They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn’t take it. And they nailed him to the cross. They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them.

They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—THE KING OF THE JEWS—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. (The Message)

When I was given this passage of the gospel of Mark to reflect upon, my heart hurt. I love to read and English was my favorite subject in high school (Geek alert!). But – I’m not sure if it’s a gift or a curse – when I read, I put myself in the story. I see the words and picture the scene vividly. The Passion is so powerful; however, taking time to reflect upon this passage brings new visions to light.

Many of you probably are unaware I spent a large portion of my life working as an R.N. I worked at Hays Good Samaritan while I went to school, and again later worked in the Alzheimer’s Unit. I spent 20+ years as a surgical charge nurse, worked in the ER, and 5 years as house supervisor. Most recently I retired from nursing after 6 years as the admissions nurse and as a chaplain as HaysMed.

Throughout my tenure, one thing stood out – pain. Most people I cared for had pain. Some took large quantities of pain medication on a routine basis; others had never taken anything for pain until the moment they entered the hospital with whatever was affecting them. And then there were the patients who didn’t want any medications for pain-they just wanted it gone and for the suffering to end. So many times, their pain was excruciating. Sometimes, I would leave their rooms and stop in an empty room and cry. Such suffering, especially cancer patients and patients with COPD or other incurable diseases, and most recently, Covid-19.

Jesus, I believe, was thinking of this, when he refused to take the painkiller offered to him by the soldiers. His suffering was for each person who endures pain. Each one of us. Whether we suffer emotionally or physically; grief or anger, heartache or rejection; He suffered and still suffers, for and with each and every one of us.

The inscription above him was there to embarrass and add to his suffering. I like to think of it as the shameful nakedness of our sinfulness each time we turn away; our guilt hanging on a sign above his head. His pain – think of it – so deep, gripping every part of Him with each movement, each breath. And on either side of him we see the two criminals, thieves as it has been written, one of them acknowledging his mistakes, the other, seemingly just upset that he has been caught. 

Isn’t that kind of like our lives? I, myself, have done some not very good things. There have even been times I was like the criminal who thinks Jesus should, just because, forgive and forget, and let me move on without even thinking about my wrongdoing. Or even worse, thinking what has been done wasn’t wrong at all, and trying to justify it.

Only when I stepped back from the situation and saw things holistically did I see my way was not the right way. That is when I became the other criminal, asking Jesus to forgive me and knowing he walks with me, all-seeing and all-knowing, just waiting for me to give myself back to him.

“And when I think that God, his son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden GLADLY bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

Cheryl Glassman is the music director at St. Nicolas of Myra Catholic Church in Hays.