A Reflection on The Passion of the Lord

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A Reflection on The Passion of the Lord

Jesus often tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to be put to death, so that on the third day he can rise from the dead to secure our salvation. His disciples were horrified by the thought and tried to deny the inevitability. But Jesus persisted in his efforts to prepare his disciples for the future. This brings to my mind three question: Why such a horrible death? Why did the people call for Jesus’ crucifixion? How am I any different?

Question one – Why such a horrible death? The manner of Jesus’s death was mostly the consequence of his time. I have read that the scourging of Jesus was, in fact an offer of mercy. The purpose of the scourging was punishment, not a means of execution. With the scourging, Jesus was given the opportunity to recant his claims of kingship and accept the unquestioned rule of Cesar. He did not recant, but remained mute throughout his passion. Jesus’ crucifixion was the normal means of execution for those non-Roman citizens accused of a capital crime.

Some religious thinkers have portrayed the cruelty of Jesus’ death as a symbol of the horrendous level of human sin. The manner of his death needed to resemble the horror of human sin. Other religious thinkers propose that because of the horrors of human sin, the horror of Jesus’ death is a measure of how deeply, how much he loved.

Question two – Why did the people call for Jesus’ crucifixion? This is a more difficult question to answer because, in all honesty, it is a reflection, not a collection of individual testimonies. But, consider that in the historical context of the time of Jesus, there were several false Messiahs that raised the hopes of many, only to be dashed by their defeat and death. Jesus was caught, and sentenced to death. He was not visibly victorious over the Roman occupiers. Jesus had no army; his closest followers had abandoned him.

The legal reality of the day was that to even allow oneself to be called a “king”, of heaven or anyplace on earth, without the express written permission of Cesar, was an act of sedition and punishable by crucifixion. Pontius Pilate was known to be very cruel and vindictive. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the people that Pontius Pilate had mixed the blood of some unknown sinners with the blood of their sacrifices, an illustration of the cruelty and disregard by Pilate. The fear that Pilate would use Jesus as an excuse to bring in the army to wipe out the insurrection, was real and reasonable. The people were afraid to say publicly that they had any other king but Cesar.

Question three – How am I any different? I like to think that I am better, stronger in my faith, not crying out “Crucify HIM!”. But I can recall too many times I have witnessed, or participated in an evil, because I was unwilling to suffer the minor consequences of rejection. I have closed my heart and mind, at times – not always – to those who gossip, who destroy a person’s reputation when that person is unable to defend themselves. I have witnessed minor crimes of “petty theft” and said nothing because I did not want to get involved. I argued to myself that it was just petty theft; nobody was really hurt. When I turn my ear and spirit to gossip, I cry out “Crucify Him!” When I turn my vision and heart to accept evil, even in its smallest form; I cry out “Crucify Him!” The third question is – How am I any different?