The passion and death of Jesus - 2 April 2021
Good Friday is often considered to be the most holy day in the Christian calendar as we gather to hear once more the story of Jesus’ rejection, betrayal, suffering and death. At a human level it is a most distressing story of corruption and callous cruelty. At a spiritual level it is also a disturbing story as Jesus cries out from the cross ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’.
Three brief thoughts as we contemplate the events of Good Friday:
First is its inevitability. Jesus has been purposefully heading to Jerusalem for this final showdown with the Jewish authorities. During his final week in Jerusalem, Jesus directly confronts the temple authorities for their corruption and unfaithful leadership. Simmering animosity reaches boiling point and their actions are predictable. Jesus has known for a long time what his likely end will be.
Second is Jesus’ innocence. Neither the Jewish Council nor Pilate can find just cause to condemn Jesus. The priests feel threatened and Pilate wants to maintain civil order, but Jesus is clearly portrayed as innocent of any charge deserving death. This line of argument will be important for the emerging Christian community to show that Jesus was far from criminal in his actions.
Third is Jesus’ isolation. He has no friends among the priests and scribes and as soon as the heat comes on, the disciples all flee, leaving Jesus alone. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ anguished prayer that he might be spared from this hour of suffering receives no response from God. In his humanity and in his relationship with God, Jesus feels completely cut off and alone, hence his cry of abandonment from the cross.
Like the women watching on from a distance, we can only watch the unfolding events and wonder why Jesus’ life and ministry must end this way. Yes it seems inevitable, but couldn’t God intervene? Yes, Jesus is innocent so why does justice not prevail? Yes, Jesus is isolated but must those with power always prevail? There is profound mystery here, as our questions remain unanswered. As Jesus experiences the worst that humanity can inflict, where is God?
The answer to that deep question must wait until Easter Sunday to be answered.
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