Meditation for Passion Sunday, Year B

The Pharisees and the Elders made several efforts to arrest Jesus. His ministry was punctuated by these ‘attacks’ to bring him down. Most times, the fear of the crowd who rallied around Him scared them away. The more He escaped, the more they opted for their game. Towards His passion they became more direct, having convinced the people that Jesus was blaspheming by calling Himself the Son of God, the Messiah (Jn 10:33-36). The more Jesus explained through His teaching that the Scriptures witness to Him as the Son of God, the more they found Him ‘guilty’. The more He performed miracles to show that He and the Father are one, the more their fury boiled because more people were beginning to believe Him! The Chief Priests and the Elders had already condemned Jesus but looking for whatever pretence they could to justify their plot against Him (Mk 14:1). Finally, their opportunity came when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane.

“They led Jesus to the High Priest; and all the chief priests assembled, with the elders and the teachers of the law” (Mk 14:53). What kind of trial did they organize for Jesus since they had already made up their minds? They started digging out for evidence to support the accusations and even those that came up to speak defeated themselves by conflicting witnesses (Mt 14:55-59). What next since all the evidence could not convict Him? The High Priest and the Elders were on the verge of self-defeat and shame! Then the High Priest stood up amid the crowd and questioned Jesus. First, he asked Jesus to comment on the allegations brought against Him. But those allegations conflicted with themselves and failed! So Jesus was silent. Secondly, he asked Him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Most Powerful, and coming with the clouds of heaven around Him. The High Priest pretended to be shocked at the answer and tore his garments to stir up the people against Him. And it worked. They began to spit on Jesus and beat Him (Mk 14:60-65).

The High Priest and the Elders were put to trial for their jealousy and hatred; their gang up against Jesus exposed their wicked hearts. When they were taught they had gotten what they wanted, they realized immediately that they had no power to sentence Jesus to death, only the civil authorities could do so. Therefore, they took Jesus to Pilate. But Pilate was a Roman Governor, who cared less about issues of the Jewish religion. He was only interested in collecting taxes and maintaining order. The issues tabled by these religious leaders had no legal relevance, not to talk of the death sentence! In his mind, Pilate had already set Jesus free but was looking for whatever pretence he could use to allow Jesus to go.

The real trial was now between Pilate and the Sanhedrin, each struggling to outwit the other and have the upper hand! Pilate was shocked to discover that Jesus was not interested in the ‘freedom’ he was offering, and neither was He interested in the ‘condemnation’ the Sanhedrin was pushing for. Pilate found himself losing the battle, his authority had no relevance to Jesus, and the crowds and Sanhedrin were rejecting his power too. Pilate made a last-minute attempt to win the favour of the crowd since it was obvious that Jesus would not answer him, and the High Priests and Elders had made up their minds. He offered to sentence Barabbas, the man who had hurt the people and set Jesus, the King of the Jews, free. Seeing that Pilate wanted to outsmart them by having the crowd to his side, the Chief priests blackmailed him and stirred up a riot. Now, Pilate’s position as governor was on trial, while the pride of the High Priest and the Elders were on trial! The crowds always follow what appealed to them as the ‘popular demand’ for the moment.  But Jesus remained silent and calm; He was making a free offering of Himself to the Father (cf. Mk 15:1-20).

In life, we go through this kind of trial. We may be drawn to follow the path of Pilate, conscious of our ego, power and influence, thinking we have the power to give freedom to others. We may be on the path of the jealous Sanhedrin, being selfish, lustful, competitive, greedy and unsatisfied. At times we want to cheer the crowd with no responsible conscience and no personal commitment. Oh, how easy it is to hide under the ‘crowd’ to commit evil without being personally accountable for it. However, we still have Jesus standing quietly, innocent and free, knocking at the doors of our hearts, inviting us to His wounded side, where we freely offer ourselves to the Father through Him, with Him and in Him, forever and ever! Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Lagos.
Sunday, March 28th, 2021.
Palm Sunday


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