Music somehow reaches the core of my being. A certain song will command movement and make a workout more intense; another tune will force a smile to overcome my countenance; yet other combinations of notes slow my pulse and restore me.
“I wrote this song yesterday; I think this is the piece we have needed for our Good Friday service,” Gary Hallquist, the pastor of music ministry of our church, said a little over a year ago. His music-writing amazes me.
Our Good Friday “Service of Shadows” is a choral and orchestral production centered around Scripture reading, depicting the last days of Christ before crucifixion. The lighting changes to darkness slowly throughout the musical evening, ending the service in complete darkness and silence, as if the Light of the World was extinguished. On Sunday morning, the service begins in the dark, and the lights come up – into full brightness to celebrate the Resurrection.
At the Service of Shadows, singing “There is a Fountain” or “Oh Precious Savior” leaves the listeners and singers in wonder and awe of Christ. But Gary’s song called, “Crucify Him!” stirs different emotions. I didn’t want to sing it.
The orchestra leads the introduction with dissonance. Conflicting notes that don’t yield “happy” build on top of one another, creating suspense like the theme from “Jaws”. The listener is transported back in time to the day that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, asked the crowd, “What do you want me to do with Jesus?”
“Crucify Him!” is almost shouted in bass tones in a syncopated rhythm that is woven throughout the piece. The shout begins on the first beat of the measure, but then it changes: beat two, or the second half of four – as if a crowd is sporadically shouting their opinions, yet so musical in chorus. The orchestra echoes the rhythm, with the bass instruments randomly repeating it while the choir is singing other melodies, like an underlying hatred in the world.
I hate singing, “Crucify Him!” The words pierce my heart, yet I know singing it creates the emotions for the service that must have been there the day the chief priests and officers were shouting it to the Roman prefect. (John 19:6)
The men sections come in full force, singing the words of Pilate in powerfully ominous bass tones: “Whom do you want me to release to you?”
“What do you want with Jesus your king?” Pilate (the choir men) asks.
The crowd (choir women) interrupts with the answer, “We have no king but Caesar; We want Him put to death! His blood be on us and our children!”
What… an… angry… crowd. I cannot imagine the emotional overcast that day.
Do I have to sing and pretend to be that?! I would NEVER scream, “Crucify Him!” If I were there, how could I possibly say that I would rather have Pilate release a prisoner and kill the Son of God instead? Barabbas was known for robbery, which in those days often meant terrorism and/or bloody insurrection. (Mark 15:7) I would NEVER have chosen to release him, knowing that with my words, I could have voted for Pilate to release Jesus, a man who never sinned, instead!
Do you ever have these thoughts?
- “How could those leaders act like that? Wasn’t a crowd just yelling, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ last Sunday?” (John 12)
- “How could Peter, one of the disciples, say he didn’t even know Jesus, when just hours before, Jesus had washed his very feet with His own hands?” (John 18:17)
- What kind of man is Pilate, that he would allow a crowd to make the decision for his conviction.
- “I would NEVER yell, ‘Crucify Him!’ I would never want to free a bad guy instead. I would NEVER say I didn’t know Jesus. I would never be like that.”
When I judgmentally thought, “That’s disgusting,” looking at someone dressed differently, adorned with things I would not have near my body, and walking in an unattractive way, I was not loving.
When I had to talk myself back into emotional control when the flight attendant gave me a hard time about “FAA regulations,” (which must not have existed on the 3 previous flights that day!) I was not seeing her as Jesus.
When I received a negative email, how much did I want to return the negative with a kiss of betrayal?
“Crucify Him!” I was shouting with each thought, each emotion, each lack of love.
If I am not for Him, I am against Him. (John 3:18) I shout “Hosanna!” in church, and by the time I am home at the end of the week, or sometimes even the day, I have denied Him three times.
I cannot say, “never.”
Barabbas was guilty.
Jesus was innocent.
Barabbas lived; and on that first “Good Friday,” Jesus died in his place.
I am guilty; Jesus died in my place.
Peter may stand for those who have been there: felt their guilt, know their need for a Savior, and yet hide it under the pressure of the “in” crowd, a friend or spouse. I have been Peter.
Today, Good Friday, as we remember the day that Jesus was crucified, may we lay our own lives aside and live for Him. “Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
Closing this letter is best done with the words of Dr. Ray Pritchard:
“Finally we are left with the question Pilate asked: “What shall I do then with Jesus?”
You can stand back and say, “I don’t care about him.”
You can push him away and say, “Leave me alone.”
You can open your heart and say, “Lord Jesus, I welcome you into my life.”
That is the best thing you can do. It is the safest thing you can do. Trust him. Run to the cross and lay hold of Jesus who loved you and died for you. What more could you do than what he has done for you?
Jesus or Barabbas. The choice is yours.”
May God give you grace to believe in Jesus and crown him as Savior and Lord today.
Suggested Reading: John, Chapters 17 -21
Related Post: Climb the Ladder
Below: Video recording of the Service of Shadows (Crucify Him song is near the 40th minute, but feel free to enjoy its entirety for the real message.)