The Passion of the Lord according to Matthew
Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
Which of the two do you want me to release to you?
Pilate said to them,
Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?
They all said,
Let him be crucified!
But he said,
Why? What evil has he done?
They only shouted the louder,
Let him be crucified!
This weekend all our readings focus on Jesus, his role, his obedience, and his loving bond to God the Father. As I read, reflected on, and thought about the Passion of our Lord, I realized it’s not only the story of our redemption, but also a holy model of how to deal with tragedy, injustice, stress, weakness, and fear.
Early in the passion narrative as tensions start to mount and it becomes clear that His hour has arrived, Jesus Christ draws close to his inner circle of friends. It reminds us that we need the support of each other — that we cannot face tragedy and difficulty alone, but we must do so with the support of and in union with community. In that union with God and community, the new Passover meal — the perpetual feast that sustains us — is born.
Secondly, in this model Jesus demonstrates that we should never stop praying. In the Passion, Jesus prays for God’s help, he asks for God’s strength and asks for the willingness to accept that God’s will must be done.
Lastly, Jesus lets the Holy Spirit inform his words and his actions. When asked direct questions, he affirms what is true. When mistreated, he does not respond with aggression. He forgives those who mock, reject, and act out of ignorance. At his weakest moment, as his personal resources fail, he accepts help, the help of Simon, a perfect stranger. Through it all, He remains in an intimate and loving dialogue with God, right to the very end.
My brothers and sisters, the Passion of our Lord has much to teach us. It offers much to comfort us. Right now, at this time of great uncertainty, we are called to lift and bear our cross confidently. We are called to be trusting — that like Jesus our pain and suffering will not end in senseless destruction — but will instead bring the lasting, life sustaining freedom, of Easter joy.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.