Well we come to it at last. After a long journey we enter into Jerusalem for the final confrontation between Jesus, the Jewish leaders and Roman occupiers. It’s a different kind of confrontation than the military one that might be expected though. This is the last week for the charismatic teacher and healer from Galilee. And his most important teachings are still to come.
In his story of Jesus’ final days, Luke goes out of his way to remind us that Jesus is innocent. We might not need this particular reminder- we probably take it for granted since it’s in so many of our hymns and liturgies. But Luke’s first audiences didn’t have all of that, and Luke is making an important point.
Pilate can’t find anything wrong with Jesus- not that deserves death. Neither can Herod- who enjoys mocking him but otherwise can find no fault with Jesus. One of the two thieves crucified with Jesus testifies to his innocence too. And when Jesus dies the Roman Centurion declares ‘truly this was an innocent man.’
Many innocent and non-violent people have died martyr’s deaths. Gandhi, Bishop Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind immediately, but they’re not the only examples. If we think for any length of time about what that says about human nature- I expect that we’ll be very disturbed indeed.
The Jewish leaders resorted to violence to get rid of Jesus. The Roman government was willing to suppress and pervert justice rather than deal with his innocence. What was it about a single innocent man that inspired such resistance and enmity?
Was it his love for those whom we most often judge as unlovable; his love for the poor, the sinners and the outcasts? His insistence on allegiance to God above all else- or his judgment of the status quo, which favored a few and was oppressive to others? Maybe we find these same things equally disturbing and irritating in our own day. What do we do to resist or even eliminate Jesus’ message from our lives?
Luke begins his gospel with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph: ordinary people, living their ordinary lives. Whatever else they’ve done in life- the most significant thing about them in the story is their faithfulness. They have receded into the background now, and it is the disciples, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimethia and others who take their place. The story opens with Jesus and his friends eating the Passover meal- they observed the high holy day which is exactly what faithful Jewish men would do. It closes with the women- they’ve followed to see where Jesus’ body has been laid, and then they go home to prepare spices and ointment to give Jesus a proper burial, and then settle in to observe the Sabbath day. Just as pious Jewish women would do. They all have their own stories to tell- some more colorful than others, but it is their faithfulness that gets them into the story.
What story does our daily life tell? Would our faithfulness to God get us into the story?
Caroline’s words from yesterday’s God in your Inbox reflection make a good preface for what we do next- as we settle in to hear the Passion Story- “let the power of the story take hold of you; let the events come alive.” In the cross of Christ, God’s faithfulness is revealed to us. I pray that we reflect that same faithfulness in our world and in our lives.