Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah? For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’ So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.”’ The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way. From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘This man is calling for Elijah.’ At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!
This week our lenten journey starts to draw to a close as we hear of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It is a strange Sunday really, we’ve spent the last few weeks in a state of penitence and now we bear witness to a triumphant entry, but in the full knowledge of what is to come on Good Friday.
Our Palm and Passion gospels may leave us with more questions than answers when we examine them closely…
Firstly as we hear of Jesus’s not-so-quiet entry into the city, his intentions are clear to all around. He is known. His work of ministry has been well documented across the land and people come out in droves to welcome this man, the messiah. But, witness such as this can be – and in Jesus’ case, most certainly is – costly. As the tales go on, we hear how the disciples scattered and left him. I wonder, how do we let others know that our intention is to be and remain a disciple of Jesus? How do we demonstrate this? But crucially, what is the cost and are we prepared to pay it?
Maybe you have bigger questions about this whole narrative. How do you feel about Jesus making such a triumphal entry into Jerusalem? What do you think about the pomp and circumstance, the courting of adoration? How does this square up with the image of ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, which some of us were taught in the past? Which is the real Jesus? Perhaps we need a shift in perspective. Jesus’ procession was not a show of power or military might that the Romans then, or any nation today, might wish to portray. The adoration of the crowd seems to have been spontaneous rather than incited. What was it about Jesus that invited this response?
The main questions that we should leave with today though is where do I see myself in all this, and how does my life reflect that? Am I amongst the crowd that then drops away? Am I one of the disciples that scatters as things get tough? Am I able to go back to Jesus and say ‘I have sinned and denied you, please forgive me’? We alone can answer those.