Dear Companions on the Journey,
Jesus did not die in his sleep…
A handful of religious leaders brought accusations before Pontius Pilate about Jesus (Mk 15:3). These accusations could only be of a political – not religious – nature, since only for political reasons could the Romans consider the death penalty. Jesus’ trial pivoted on the adequacy and nature of his kingship: i.e., His threat to the occupying Roman forces. His teachings had all seemed so innocent – stories about fig trees, sowing seeds, simplicity, God’s love, and so forth. Yet, in Mark’s Gospel, Pilate’s questions revolve around Jesus’ threat to the political order.
In the same Gospel, mocking soldiers ridiculed Jesus in terms of His being a king. And His “crime,” according to the message nailed above His head on the cross, was that He was a king. Could it be that we Christians, who quickly accept Jesus’ Messiahship, overlook the very charge for which Jesus was executed? We who follow Jesus may have bleached His stories of their political ramifications so that their spiritual content might edify us…even if they might never move us to the same obvious public meaning which they had for Pontius Pilate.
Has our very legitimate concern for the spiritually edifying dimensions of Jesus’ life blinded us to the radically political dimension of Jesus’ death? Were the Romans simply wrong in claiming that Jesus’ crime was the He was a king? In the tragedy of Good Friday, then, what we have is the fate of Someone whose commitment to His society (and not simply to His job and His friends) brought Him into direct confrontation with the political powers of His day. What might happen to His teachings in our own day if they were not only admired but followed?
The centurion was correct: “Clearly this man was the Son of God.” The God whom we meet in the Hebrew Scriptures was one who threw His preferential love with the poor, the marginalized, the brokenhearted. Jesus enfleshed the will of His Father, and the Roman authorities recognized that His teachings, if taken seriously, would mean a different arrangement of societal powers. So they did not allow His life to continue. He would not die in His sleep.
The question for His followers remains however: have His teachings fared better than their teacher?
Please prayerfully commit to joining this, your Paulist Center Community, in our Three-Day Celebration (Triduum) of Jesus’ glorious triumph of life over death, of the promise of abundant life forever. This is less a “reenactment,” but more a celebration of what Jesus has done for us. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil (see bulletin for exact times).
What do you think?
And let us pray for/with one another.
The Paulist Center