The Passion of Christ : Luke 22:14—13:56
We too stand at a distance and watch these things.
Two thousand years ago is a long way to look. It was a different world. It was a foreign culture with different mores and different ways of thinking.
Does it feel hard to relate to?
Or maybe the story is too familiar, too well known.
Maybe we’ve heard it so many times over the courses of our lives that we’ve lost the ability to hear something new, to be surprised.
What can something that happened so long ago have to say to us in the 21st C?
What difference can this one man’s life have upon our lives today?
There are many many answers to that question and I am not presumptuous enough to even attempt any sort of comprehensive response. There is however one thing about our Lord’s Passion that hits me where I live, and that is the injustice of it.
One of the earliest things we learn to decry as children, after discovering our ability to say, “No!” is, “That’s not fair!” We all have an innate sense of what’s right, of how things ought to be.
Spending time in Luke’s version of the Passion, I saw and felt a level of injustice that was more profound than I can ever remember before. Jesus was arrested, beaten, mocked and insulted, and falsely accused. Then he was brought before the authority of Pilate. So much for due process!
Both Pilate and Herod declare him innocent of the charges brought against him yet have no problem flogging our Jesus. The crowd comes to Pilate 3 times and each time Pilate declares him innocent. But because the voices demanding his death would not stop, he relents and gives them what they want.
Jesus is crucified between 2 thieves one of whom mocks and challenges him about being the Messiah, after all, what kind of Messiah gets killed on a cross? The other thief though, knows Jesus should not be there and attests to his innocence.
As Jesus hangs on the cross, the Roman soldiers also mock him and try to give him sour wine, but when Jesus finally breathes his last, the Centurion testifies, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
Pilate, Herod, the thief, and the Centurion all knew that he was innocent, and it did not matter.
Jesus was wrongly accused and it did not matter.
He did not deserve to be beaten and it did not matter.
He did not deserve to die a torturous death and it did not matter.
Those who would tell us that life is not fair speak a terrible truth.
Anyone who has ever been violated or betrayed knows this.
Anyone who wonders why the cancer came back, why they were downsized, why their child is struggling, why they feel so alone, knows this.
There are so many things in our lives and in our world that make us ask, “why?” That make us cry out, “but it’s so unfair!” Those were the questions I heard in my heart as I read and listened to Christ’s Passion. There are those who have tried to answer that question down through the ages—it’s where we got all our atonement theories from, and although they can help us consider various possible reasons, none completely answer the question of why.
It seems intolerable not to be able to understand His suffering, or ours, but that doesn’t mean we can’t know what Jesus’ Passion was for. Actually I said that wrong. It’s not “what” but rather “who.” Who was it for?
Jesus was very clear about that. He was eager to sit at table with his friends before his suffering and tell them that his body was broken and his blood was poured out for them, including the one who betrayed him, the one who denied him, and the ones that all deserted him. Jesus submitted willingly to unjust atrocities for them, and for us. He said that it happened to fulfill the Scriptures and truthfully I’m not sure we can completely get that one either.
What we can get though, is that because of his passion and death, we can be absolutely certain that any injustice we experience, he will understand and have compassion for. Because His injustice happened we know that the Spirit anointed him with power for healing, forgiveness, and presence to all people in all ages.
Not getting to know why, does not translate into things being meaningless. God knows every hurt and joy of our hearts. God’s commitment to us is indissoluble, and Jesus guaranteed that with his death. You are understood, known, and loved more than you can think or imagine.
Spend this week bringing your joys and injustices to Him. In remembering his willing vulnerability find the courage to be vulnerable in your own lives. It’s worth the risk as you’ll see next week when we celebrate and rejoice over what God did with that.
May God grant us the grace to walk in the way of his suffering that we may also come to share in his resurrection.