April 17, 2011
Triumph of Christ
Just as there is a Palm Sunday procession on Palm Sunday, many churches also read one of the Passion Gospel accounts during the service. This reminds us that there is but a short step from the triumphal entry to betrayal, conviction, and the Cross.
Jesus threatened the balance of power. As Caiphas prophecied “it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” (John 11:49-50) He was articulating the concerns of the Sanhedrin. The leaders found a traitor in Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for “thirty pieces of silver.”
Jesus is arrested, tried by the Sanhedrin, Herod, and finally sent to Pilate for judgement. Trumped up charges are presented: “They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribut to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.’” (Luke 23:2. Pilate bows to the political necessity and orders Jesus put to death when the crowds cry out to “crucify him.”
The Roman government used crucificion as a punishment for notorious crimes and deterent to criminals. Outside of most large cities were places for crucificion. North of Jerusalem, on a small hill called Golgotha the uprights for this punishment stood. Criminals were forced to carry their own cross bar to their place of execution. Jesus, too, after he was whipped and beaten and mocked (Matthew 27:27-31), had to shoulder the cross and carry it to Golgotha (Calvary). Crucificion is a slow and painful process as death gradually comes from suffocation when the victim is unable to lift himself up to breathe. In order to hasten death, the legs were sometimes broken. Those crucified with Jesus had their legs broken, but his were not. (John 19:31-37)
After he died, Joseph of Arimathea “took courage” went to Pilate and asked for the body. He and Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin, buried Jesus in his tomb in a Garden. (John 19:38-42). It is probable that as a wealthy trader, as well as member of the Jewish council, Joseph was known to Pilate. In class we discussed whether it took more courage for Joseph to go to Pilate or to take a stand against the Sanhedrin. What do you think?
Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. In what ways are we blind to the prophets among us?
The priests hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities. Pilate tries to pass the blame back to the people who respond ‘Crucify him’. Would you have shouted with the crowd or not?
We know the rest of the story, but his disciples did not. They were devastated. Next Sunday we celebrate the real Triumph of Jesus, the Christ of God. However, before we get to Easter, we have to walk the events of Holy Week. If your church has services during the week commemorating Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to walk with Jesus the last few days of his life. Or maybe you can find time yourself to read through the Passion in each of the four Gospels. Meditate on the mighty acts of God who turned the world upside down.