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Good Friday reflection
At last they had Him, there must have been a sense of satisfaction that Jesus had been caught, and with so few to witness the event. It wouldn’t have been so well orchestrated without inside help. They must have been celebrating that Judas was so easy to buy. The sense of achievement must then have turned to desperation. They now had to find Jesus guilty of something that they could make stick. The overnight activity has been almost frenetic, normal night time routine was gone, they had a deadline to beat, a deadline set by their own laws and traditions. So many were involved in wanting to find a reason to be rid of Jesus. If we put the gospel accounts together we read of those involved: Annas father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest (who still seemed to hold power), Caiaphas himself, the teachers of the law and elders, the Sanhedrin as well. The rush of activity in drawing all these people together, the banging on doors to wake people and stir them, to gather them, to bring an end to the life of the troublesome Jesus. The new day brings in Herod, who wanted to meet Jesus, and then finally the governor Pilate, a man with enough problems already! …
So Jesus is taken to Pilate, but, in John’s account Pilate has to go out to the Jewish leaders who had brought Him: “By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them.” The irony was that, as they delivered the Messiah in the hope of seeing Him put to death, they were worried about being unclean! In Luke’s account Pilate, on finding Jesus to be a Galilean, sends Him to Herod who “plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.” Then the real physical abuse starts: “Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.”
Pilate is sitting on a powder keg. He fears it is going to go off. What should he do? The crowd have been primed to call for the death penalty, even though Pilate had said: “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.” Pilate, in the hope of a way out, offers Barabbas. Surely they would rather see Barabbas executed than Jesus! But no, they call for the release of Barabbas, a known criminal. Pilate again tries: ” I will have him punished and then release him.” But that well-known response filled the air and Pilate caved in to the demands of the mob, manipulated by the Jewish leaders, who kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Mark’s gospel 15:16-20 “The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
So Jesus, is taken, made to carry the cross-bar of the cross on which he would hang, as he is paraded through the streets, some spectacle for people to be part of. But one person is more of a part: Simon, from Cyrene, who is made to carry the wooden burden of Jesus, who now is too weak. But Jesus is moving to the point when the weight He would carry would be so great that it would separate Him from God, His Father. Further indignities were to follow, predicted by others in times before (Psalm 22:18) as the soldiers divide up His garments. They crucify Jesus with two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left and “those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mock him among themselves: “He saved others,” they say, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heap insults on him (Mark 15:29-32).
So we arrive at what should have been an insignificant event in human history, just another barbaric execution on a cross, the horror of which was designed to act as a deterrent to would be dissidents. But this one event changes the course of human history and has transformed lives and continues to do so.
Mark 15:33-39 – At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Mark 15:42-47 – It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
So now the silence . . . time on hold. Fear rippling through the ones He called. Confusion as God’s Son seemed silenced. A paralysis of inaction that could only result in hiding, comfort in unity, the bond of fellowship strengthened by grief, disciple or follower, man or woman, the spiritual darkness fell as the Sabbath rest came. The day when God freed His people from oppression, called them out, through their doorways marked by the blood of the sacrificial lamb. History in disguise, reworked by God into their present. A new promised land awaited, as they waited, cowered in fear, unknowing. . . .
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