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Thursday, 21 March 2024 10:58

Love revealed

First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “It is you who say it” he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him.

Pilate questioned him again. “Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!” But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate for the customary favour, Pilate answered them: “Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over.

The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. “But in that case, what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” “Why? What harm has he done?” But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, king of the Jews!”

They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes. They led him out to crucify him. They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: “The King of the Jews.” And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, “Aha! So you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!” The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way: “He saved others, he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.” Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!” which means “My God, My God, why have you deserted me?” When some of those who stood by heard this, they said “Listen, he is calling on Elijah.” Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink, “Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, “In truth this man was a son of God.”

There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger, and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.

It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day, that is the vigil of the sabbath, there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph who brought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Jesus were watching and took note of where he was laid. (Mark 15:1-39)

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 Gaza and 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.

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