This week, we're going to take a look at what Jesus did in his last week of life shortly. Simply put, Jesus did all that you would come to expect of someone who claims to be God on earth: Jesus does the unexpected. As a church, we believe his extraordinarily surprising, unorthodox, ironic and supernatural actions and words deserve deeper, reflective thought. So each day this week, you'll receive an email message with some prayers, questions and thoughts about the meaning of the season we are in right now: Holy Week, the last week of Jesus' life.
... Finally, Jesus is taken to the Jewish religious leaders and they put him on trial. Those who hate him can't make their stories match up. Jesus remains silent the whole time, just letting them make fools of themselves. Finally, according to Matthew's and Mark's account, after being silent throughout the whole trial, Jesus says just one thing: the statement that would ultimately damn him to death in their eyes. (Why didn't he just keep his mouth shut?!)
Meanwhile, Peter, the "rock" that the church would be built upon, denies knowing him. It's all unraveling now.
Jesus is taken to Pilate and put on trial. He's mostly silent. In Mark's account, he says just one thing again: "Yes, it is as you say." (The question was: "Are you the king of the Jews?" Not a question you want to answer in the affirmative when you're standing in front of the Roman governor).
Pilate can't decide what to do: Jesus has obviously committed no crime. Then Pilate remembers a custom they have: "It was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison...[he] had committed murder..." Pilate must have thought, "I'll offer the people Jesus or Barabbas. Surely they'll choose Jesus, because Barabbas is a murderer. Surely they'll want Barabbas to die, not Jesus." But the crowd chooses Barabbas--for freedom (already the paradox of the cross is foreshadowed: the innocent one pays the guilty one's penalty). Pilate is surprised. He wants to know why. They don't tell him. They just keep shouting louder and louder and louder "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!" Jesus, the innocent one, will be killed. There's blood on Pilate's hands. He needs to wash them.
Before a whole company of soldiers, Jesus is beaten on the head with a staff several times. He's whipped. They put a crown of thorns on his head. He's mocked. They spit on him. (But he hasn't done anything wrong!)
He's led to the Place of the Skull. They nail him to a cross. They take his clothes. He says just seven things while hanging there:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." He offers forgiveness.
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." He offers heaven.
"Dear woman, here is your son. Here is your mother." Family created.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Sin borne.
"I am thirsty." Spiritual desert.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." The end is near. A loud cry, and-
"It is finished." Salvation complete.
It's over. Spear in his side. Blood, water. The curtain: torn. The sky darkens. Body in the tomb.
"Still falls the Rain--
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss--...
Still falls the Rain
With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the hammer-beat...
Still falls the Rain
In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the human brain
Nurtures its greed...
Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross...
Under the Rain the sore and the gold are as one.
Still falls the Rain--
Still falls the Blood from the Starved Man's wounded Side:
He bears in His Heart all wounds,--those of the light that died,
The last faint spark
In the self-murdered heart, the wounds of the sad uncomprehending dark,...
Still falls the Rain--...
See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmament:
It flows from the Brow we nailed upon the tree
Deep to the dying, to the thristing heart
That holds the fires of the world,--dark-smirched with pain...
Then sounds the voice of the One who like the heart of man
Was once a child who among beasts has lain--
'Still do I love, still shed my innocent light, my Blood, for thee.'"
(exerpts from "Still Falls the Rain" by Dame Edith Sitwell)
No words can describe what happened that day. Poets come closer to sapping its meaning. And Gethsemane foretold it.
Try spending a good portion of the day in silence: in contemplation of a dark but truly Good Friday, and an unjustly murdered but truly great Jesus.
You can find accounts of Jesus' last day in all of the gospels:
May this Holy Week continue to be meaningful for your life.