“Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”. The trial scenes in the gospels are shaped by later Christian determination to show that Jesus was innocent of the charge of sedition. But there it stands in three languages. It identifies him as a messiah, poised to incite rebellion against Roman rule. Jesus met the fate of an enemy of the empire although he did not advocate for violent overthrow of the empire. He did not need to call for violent insurrection to have been perceived as politically disruptive. Preaching the hope of God’s coming kingdom with its new order of peace and justice put the current order under threat. The fact that large numbers of people responded set him as dangerous. In first century, Palestine, crucifixion of such a prophet would be a prudent Roman response. So Jesus was crucified to maintain the rule of an arrogant power as has happened to so many before and since.
Adapted from Creation and the Cross, Elizabeth Johnson
Into your hands I commend my spirit.
Meditate on Jesus’ life and the consequences of his integrity. Compare it with the lives of those who have lived with the same unconditional commitment to God’s love and justice. What does it mean for you?
Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, told them, “You don’t know anything! You don’t realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation. So from that day on they resolved to put him to death.
Suffering and death “for others” expressed the unconditional nature of Jesus’ life lived “for others”. Jesus was executed by the Romans as a troublemaker and a political rebel, in spite of his rejection of the revolutionaries’ program. This shameful death should have meant the end of him as a force to be reckoned with. But history shows otherwise.
As Mark tells the story was Jesus guilty of nonviolent resistance to imperial Roman oppression and local Jewish collaboration? Oh, yes. Mark’s story of Jesus final week is a sequence of public demonstrations against and confrontations with the domination system. And, as we all know, it killed him.
Do not forget the crucified of our time, who are the image of Jesus Crucified, and Jesus is in them.
The New Covenant in Christ Jesus is the commitment, even to the point of death, to God’s cause–to the holiness, health, and wholesomeness that blossoms in a society of equals where all are welcome and all are fed around the table of God’s justice.
Now we see played out in full brutality what happens when human collective darkness is cut loose from any moorings in individual conscience and simply runs its own blind course.