By The Rev. John Peterson
In yesterday’s Gospel, the Jews replied to Pilate “we are not permitted to put anyone to death” when Pilate urged the religious authorities to use their own law.
In today’s Gospel, the chief priests and the Temple police are both shouting “crucify him, crucify him”. Pilate responds to the crowd by saying “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him”. John, the Evangelist, then quotes the religious authorities as saying, “We have a law, and according to their law Jesus should die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
John gives us two different understandings, in these two chapters, about the law. In Chapter 18 the religious authorities say they are not permitted to put anyone to death, but in Chapter 19, the religious authorities are saying that according to their law (Leviticus 24:16), Jesus should die because of his blasphemous claim that he is the Son of God.
On Good Friday as we reflect on this most solemn chapter in John’s Gospel, I suspect in our most honest moments we, too, have to confess that often we are as conflicted as were the Jewish religious authorities.
This is the Divine Reversal, God turning upside down everything we hold to be so important in our lives: power, authority, wealth and prestige. Kings and Queens wear crowns of gold and silver, adorned with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, but the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords ultimately wears a crown of thorns that will pierce the skin and cause blood to flow.
There has never been a divine drama like it.
1) As you read the Passion Story, how do you reflect on the tension between the religious authorities and the state authorities?
2) Have you ever felt conflicted about this Jesus of Nazareth who “claims” to be the Son of God?
When I am conflicted, God, open my heart so that I will always be prepared to reach out to the despised and rejected in society with love and compassion.
The Rev. John Peterson is Former Secretary General of the Anglican Communion