the teachers who hated him, the priests who bought him with silver, the traitor who sold him to them, the crowd who had cried "crucify him" at the farce of his trial, and in the distance was Pilate in his palace trying to salve his conscience by blaming somebody else for what was happening. But I like to think that Jesus was encompassing a wider body of people than those I have mentioned: there was the band of disciples who had been his constant companions for nearly three years. Had they lifted a finger to prevent this act of barbarism? They were there, at a discreet distance, perhaps standing next to the secret disciples of Jesus, those kindly men Nicodemus and Joseph who were to minister to the dead body of Jesus. But as Jesus endured the torture of crucifixion, they failed to make even a token protest against the terrible atrocity being committed.

What does this tell us? All these groups either actively or passively helped to crucify Jesus - they were all guilty, but in a very real sense they are only representatives of a wider number of those responsible for crucifying Jesus, because the message of the Bible is that it was the sin of the world which crucified Jesus. The gospel writers simply wrote "They crucified Jesus". Who crucified him? I’ll tell you who crucified him. I did - and you did, and they did, those groups around the cross. The old Negro spiritual asked the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" “They” crucified the Lord? It would be truer to say "We crucified the Lord". Every one of us is equally guilty, "They do not know what they do" said Jesus. What a perceptive word this is. Mankind had become so blinded by evil, so corrupted by sin that it reacted violently to the purity and holiness of God as shown in the Lord Jesus Christ. These poor representatives of mankind were swept along by the power of Satan in seeking to destroy the Lord of glory - "they do not know what they do" - but they did it all the same.

The wonder of this Word from the Cross is that there is forgiveness. Forgiveness for the disciples who forsook Jesus and fled in the night. Forgiveness for the evil ones who drove Him to the Cross. Forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the tree. Forgiveness for the bitter hearts of his religious enemies, the priests and teachers. Forgiveness for every person who has ever sinned or made a mistake. Forgiveness for you and for me. Thank God, there is forgiveness but it is a forgiveness that requires to be taken individually, to be drawn upon in the way that God has planned. Years later, one of the disciples, John, restated this truth when he wrote, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

Forgiveness has always been the hallmark of Christianity, following the great example of its founder. The first Christian martyr, Stephen,