This afternoon we have heard sung so beautifully by Lionel & Lenin the account of the passion of Christ. If we are repelled by the suffering of Christ, confused, even ashamed, it can be tempting to take refuge in the notion that somehow the passion had to happen, it was willed by God in accord with a design born in God’s own mind, a design far beyond our ability to understand or appreciate. That is a tempting notion, because it is a comforting one. But it is not true. Christ did not choose to be crucified. Rather, he chose to be faithful, even if it meant to suffer and die. The simple fact is that Christ died because human beings freely chose to kill him.
There are number of powerful figures in this account. The pharisees, Peter, Judas, Herod, James and John, Christ’s closest friends. All of them had a part to play in the death of Christ. Some of them could have stopped it.
The Pharisees, to them, Christ was an impurity. He broke with Mosaic tradition. Nowhere is that more powerfully laid out than in the story of the last supper, the new Passover. I doubt that the pharisees were evil. They were just complacent, self-satisfied, arrogant. They had fallen under the trap of assuming that challenges only come from enemies.
Judas. More than likely he actually believed that his own vision be Christ’s, that he could manage Christ’s mission, force a declaration of power by putting him on the spot. Very likely, he was a dedicated man, who had become too nervous, too caught up in his own vision. That is a deadly trap.
Even Peter, the Rock, knew a moment of panic and betrayed. It is much easier for us to understand what moved Peter. He was afraid. Fear does terrible things to people. It does terrible things to us.
Pilate. He intellectualises, he debates…what is truth? He tries to read and re-read the mood of the crowd. He weighs the relevance of Christ against the release of Barabbas. What is the interest of the emperor in all of this? So that last resort of a cautious politician: simply do nothing at all. I wash my hands of this, it is not my concern. At least this way I won’t be hurt.
The cross was raised because no one stopped it. There have been too many crosses raised on too many hills. We call this day Good Friday. At least part of the goodness must be in our realisation that it doesn’t have to be this way. Our world need never be the level of small and narrow, heartless thing that lets that happen.
Let us challenge that heartlessness with the same promise that two days from now we will be called to live in a world as boundless as God’s own power, as full of hope and possibility as resurrection must surely be.