Friday, 30 March 2018

Good Friday: A Sacrament of Divine Love

I think we probably underestimate Pilate.

What happens with the crowd seems to absolve him.  His conversations with his wife make him into a puppet.  All in all he is not a lesson in decisive leadership.

Yet, maybe he knew exactly what he was doing and just maybe he had caught on to the essense of Jesus’ message.

Crucifixion was a mandatory Roman sentence for three classes of criminal: Pirate, rebellious slaves or enemies of the state.

Look at Jesus from Pilate’s point of view.  On his desk would be reports from those who spied on Jesus whilst he taught in the temple.  Rendering unto Caser that which is Ceaser’s was hardly a ringing endorsement of the Emperor’s authority and actually it was a dismissal of the idea that Cesar merited any concept of divinity. 

This was the Jesus who breaks social taboos and values those at the margins instead of discriminating against them.

This was the Jesus who preached not only about the love of God but also his justice.  That God expects the strong to look after the weak.

None of this was welcome to Pilate. It conflicted with his world view that power and might were the best weapons in calming the indigenous population and securing public order.

Pilate was right – Jesus was a subversive, he was an enemy of the state – he was deserving of crucifixion.

So Pilate sentences Jesus – but gives the impression such a judgement was forced on him by the crowd.

Jesus dies because his message of love and justice threatened the authorities and was rejected and misunderstood by the populous.

By not compromising that message of love and practical compassion Jesus suffered the brutality of crucifixion.

The cross is not there in order that God might change his mind about us, but that we might come to understand God. The God, who in Christ, never gives up on us, stands alongside us in love and justice.

In a hymn by Brian Wren it goes like this:

the love that freely entered
the pit of life’s despair
can name our hidden darkness
and suffer with us there.

The suffering of Jesus, on this day we call Good Friday, is a sacrament of divine love.

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