• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Thursday, 07 April 2022 10:07

The passion of a passionate God

The elders of the people and the chief priests and scribes rose, and they brought Jesus before Pilate.

They began their accusation, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.’ Pilate put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’.

Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man.’ ‘He is inflaming the people with his teaching all over Judea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. ‘You brought this man before me as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he has sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let go’. But as one they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barabbas!’ (This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ ‘But why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go.’ But they kept on shouting at the top of their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind Jesus. Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, ‘Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’, to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if you use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him there were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.

When they reached the place called the Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.

The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too and when they approached to offer him vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it; we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ With these words he breathed his last.

[All pause for a moment]

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts. All his friends stood at a distance, so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen. (Luke 23:1-49)

 

Reading the passion story is always a deeply confronting experience. It’s not just the detail of the trial, torture and death of Jesus. It is the realisation that God has emptied himself of everything we expect gods to have – might, power, astonishing wealth, swift and fierce retribution, preferential treatment for some and oppression for others, life itself.

In the person of Jesus, God emptied himself into a fragile, naked, tortured human being at the mercy of civil and religious authorities.  The God that the religious authorities and the people of Jesus’ time expected in the Messiah is not the God who showed up in the carpenter’s son. Often, too, the God we expect and want is not the God we see in Jesus.

We also remember today all those who share the passion of Jesus in one way or another. We think of people unjustly persecuted, tortured and killed, of those who face a daily passion in their search for food, water, shelter and care, of those who are today the victims of harsh civil and religious authorities, of those in war-ravaged countries, especially Ukraine.

What we see in the passion of Jesus is just how passionate God is about us humans. May we, too, be just as passionate about each other.

Download our prayers and reading for Palm/Passion Sunday.

pdf Celebrating At Home Palm/Passion Sunday [PDF] (1.47 MB)
default Celebrating At Home Palm/Passion Sunday [ePub] (2.75 MB)