Never again, my Lord!

LENT 2020 – Day 45

Readings: Is 52: 13-53, 12; Ps 30: 2.6, 12 13, 15-16 17.25; Heb 4: 14-16, 5.7-9; Jn 18: 1-9, 42

Isn’t it amazing that the saga of Jesus Christ was charted eight centuries before the coming of the Messiah? In the fourth Servant Song, Prophet Isaiah speaks of the One who God would choose to free His people from oppression. He would carry out His mission as Servant of God, in humility and pain. He would teach but they would despise and reject Him. With His appearance marred beyond human semblance, this man of sorrows would carry our sorrows. He would be wounded not for His sins but for ours; He would do no violence nor show deceit, yet He would be punished; He would not utter a word but let Himself be taken like a lamb to the slaughter. The punishment He would bear would heal humankind, and God would exalt and lift up the Servant.

St John the Evangelist, the favourite disciple of Jesus who most closely lived His Passion, captured it all so vividly. The Son of God was indeed despised and rejected, denied by one of His own, Peter the Rock, and betrayed by another, Judas Iscariot. As this was also the theme of the Gospel according to St Matthew on Passion Sunday, today let’s focus on the crux of Good Friday: the unfair trial of our Lord which led to His death.

The Jewish authorities put forth religious motives justifying the death of Jesus. However, the Jewish leaders had powers to impose only flogging and prison, not death. By making Jesus look like a political conspirator, they took Him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. It was a flimsy accusation, Pilate learnt, yet he told the people to judge Him according to their law. He proved an ineffectual, vacillating man. Even after Jesus clarified that His kingship was not of this world, Pilate lacked the courage to face the crowd whom the Sanhedrin chiefs had instigated. The Messiah touched a raw nerve in Pilate when he said, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.”

Then, perhaps in jest, Pilate famously said, “What is truth?’ His own rhetoric shook him out of his complacency at least temporarily. He went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no crime in Him.” But soon thereafter this weak and pliable judge washed his hands off the gross injustice that the mob wanted to mete out to the most just man on earth. He consented to HIs crucifixion, as demanded by the rabble outside his palace. Through all of this the only act to which Pilate did not bend was to change the title “King of the Jews” that he had already put down. Thus, unwittingly, he who had earlier said, “So you are a king?” now crowned Jesus who had then answered, “You say that I am a king.”

We see that Pilate who had power to save Jesus proved powerless, simply because he wanted to save his skin. And so did the chief priests: didn’t they bend over backwards when they said, “We have no king but Caesar”? While they showed their true colours, suffering did not overwhelm Jesus. Very dignified, He went ahead to meet His death. And when He reached the appointed place and hour, one of the crucified criminals, with a humble and repentant heart, did what the learned and vicious of Jewish society did not have the gumption to do, that is, acknowledge that Jesus is God.

In this picture of desolation, three Marys stood at the foot of the Cross: Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Copas, and Mary Magdalene. Women, the less powerful and voiceless in Jewish society, comforted Jesus every step of the painful way to Calvary. We also know that the meek and simple Simon of Cyrene shared the burden of the Cross for a while, and finally an old and secret disciple Joseph of Arimathea took charge of the body of Jesus and laid it in an absolutely new tomb.

St John’s Gospel passage should convince us that this was the most unfair trial in history. Injustice was meted out to the long-awaited Messiah. About this we have to be thoroughly convinced and refrain from being unfair to Jesus in our daily lives. Aren’t He and the Church often detested because they bear witness to the truth? And what do we do? We remain in our own comfort zones and wash our hands of it like Pilate. Isn’t our Lord mocked at and His laws struck down? And what do we do? We let Judases, Caiaphases and Pilates walk free and even rule over us.

Well, every time we fail to fearlessly defend Our Lord, we let Calvary be real in our own lives. But never again, my Lord! We who’ve been waiting for the Messiah for millennia now must say, Never again! He will soon rise from the dead and walk into our lives if we let Him do so. He is our high priest who can sympathise with our weaknesses. Let us with confidence, then, as St Paul’s exhorts us, “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”