Summary: A reflection on the intensity of the suffereing of the Savior and the need to imitate the repentant sinner and accept Jesus today.
Good Friday, new 2005
We who are parents know that there is nothing more excruciating; nothing that makes us feels so powerless as the cries of a child in pain. Many years ago when I was doing a pastoral residency in Cincinnati Ohio, I was visiting a patient on the pediatric unit. Sharing the room with my patient was a terminal leukemic child. The dying child’s mother, whom never left his bedside, was standing at the door when another pastoral associate entered the room. I am certain that the tension, grief and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness had reached its breaking point. Ignoring every one in the room, the mother screamed at this elderly nun, I don’t want you or your God in my room. I wish your God had to suffer the way my baby is suffering. This saintly nun, realizing that Her Merciful God can deal with such an outburst of anger, simply touched the arm of this grieving mother and said He did.
It is almost inconceivable to think that the Lord God would suffer; being all-good, all-powerful and all loving would he not be above suffering. But today, the holiest day of the year, the entire Christian world reflect upon the incredible fact that the Lord God did suffer. Scriptures reveal and history confirms that on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread, more precisely, that on Friday April 7 in the year 30 the earthly life of the God Man Jesus of Nazareth ended in pain and torment.
The last hours of our Savior’s earthly ministry was spent in excruciating emotional and physical pain but pain was no stranger to Jesus, Throughout his life, He denied himself the comforts and pleasures of this world. The things that we cherish he rejected. What we seek to escape, poverty, humiliation and even death he embraced willingly.
It is safe to assume that our Blessed Savior was quite aware of the fate that awaited Him. Jesus lived in a very rigid and violent culture. In first century Palestine, one could be stoned to death by the Jewish authorities for violating the Sabbath after a first warning. Capital punishment was used frequently and without the benefit of any type of appeal process. The religious and political authority of Israel had a violent history with holy men, particularly confrontational prophets. At the time of the Liberator, his countrymen were building monuments to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Micah in atonement for their martyrdom. We can assume that the fate of the ancient prophets as well as that of Baptist would have been in the mind of the Liberator during his final week in Jerusalem.
The Nazarene had made numerous powerful enemies. On almost all important questions, marriage, family, nation, traditional piety,. relationship with authority, the views of the Liberator were radically different from those of the political and religious authority of his day. Throughout his ministry, this itinerant Galilean without formal training came into conflict with the religious and political aristocrats of Jerusalem. This poor uneducated peasant with a confrontational message about pious self reliance would have clashed with the views of the urban rich and powerful.. This charismatic layman would have certainly annoyed the powerful and political hierarchy of his day because they perceived him as rejecting their interpretation of the sacred law, minimizing the significance of their cultic worship as well as questioning the entire religious and social system from which they benefited.
In the eyes of the spiritual pillars of his community, this Jesus was a heretical teacher who generated confusion for the simple uneducated people. . He would have been perceived as a false prophet and a seducer of the masses. The established guardians of law, morality and justice were convinced that they were absolutely justified in demanding the execution of this alleged blasphemers and false prophet who confronted the established way of being a pious Jew. It is safe assume that the very perceptive Nazarene anticipated serious conflicts and even violent reactions to his radical message from the religious establishment of first century Palestine He had predicted his execution on numerous occasions..
However he was not stoned to death in accordance with Jewish customs but was crucified as a political criminal in accordance with Roman law. Throughout his ministry the Liberator raised fundamental questions about established policies and procedures which would have had serious social and political consequences for him. Scriptural scholars and historians infer that the timing of his triumphant entrance into the capital city of Jerusalem for the Passover feast would have contributed to his status as a political threat. The Jewish peasantry did not have a reputation for compliance with the Roman practices of heavy taxation and land expropriating, The substantial number of oppressed pilgrims gathered in a very confined space to celebrate their ancient feast of liberation always had the potential to erupt into violence. The Roman oppressors anticipated that during the celebration of Passover, nationalist feelings and the desire to be liberated from the current oppressors was extremely high and subsequently they would bring substantial reinforcements into Jerusalem to secure the peace. Keep in mind that the concepts of due process and innocence until proven guilty were quite foreign to the Romans. They really did not need reason to punish or execute these conquered Jews with a well earned reputation for non compliance and revolt. But it does appear that his mere ceremonial entrance into Jerusalem during this period of perceived vulnerability would have been quite sufficient for the Romans to perceived and treat Jesus as a political liability and threat.