Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing, says Jesus. Forgive them. They do not know. Paul echoed Jesus later on when he said, “we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:7-8)
But the crowd who had welcomed him with palms cried “Crucify!”
“Pray,” said Jesus to his disciples, “that you may not come into the time of trial.”
The Passion is the story of the time of trial. It is a dense story. It is impossible to get all of it, no matter how often we hear it. It is impossible not to be touched by it. Overtly, it is a story in which Jesus is put on trial, but it is the world, not Jesus, that is in fact tried. We are tried. It is a story of betrayal, haste, grief and exhaustion. It is a story about facing our deepest fears. It is about a Savior that dies for our sins, not by erasing them, but by showing us what our sins really are.
None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
A teacher writes: “Bad things happen when the pace of change exceeds our ability to change, and events move faster than our understanding. It is then that we feel the loss of control over our lives. Anxiety creates fear, fear leads to anger, anger breeds violence, and violence … becomes a deadly reality.” ( Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 2)
“Lord, should we strike with the sword?” cry Jesus’ followers when the crowd storms their garden. One of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him.
No more of this. Violence, coercion, even in the best of causes, even to save, it will not get us where we wish to go. Violence only sets Barabbas free.
Peace is a paradox. Those who show courage in the heat of battle are celebrated. Those who take risks for peace are all too often assassinated.The pursuit of peace can come to seem to be a kind of betrayal. It has none of the clarity of war, in which the issues -- self defense, national honor, patriotism, pride -- are unambiguous and compelling. Peace involves a profound crisis of identity. (Sacks, p. 8)
When our world falls apart, we forget who we are. When we forget, we grow afraid. When we are afraid, we will betray all that is best in us just to make it go away. It doesn’t go away. Most of us, at one time or another, have been afraid.
Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter.
Do we know what Jesus is talking about? Pause, and in the stillness of your heart, let Jesus look at you.
Why was Jesus arrested? What social equilibrium did he threaten? What was the matter?
We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor.
The crowd has no idea what it is saying. Jesus did not forbid taxes to the emperor. Indeed, he told us to give the emperor his due, to not hold on to all that stuff. How many show trials have accused people of things they never did or said? Jesus asked us to serve God, to empty ourselves to God, to let God transform us. If we become people of God, the emperor will no longer have the power to harm.
Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
During the week ahead, let us, who together know so much, enter into the mystery of unknowing, the mystery of one, who even on the cross prayed for us, the one who emptied himself and became the truth that sets us free.