Today, Palm Sunday, we traditionally look to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
These are different times and this morning we did something different as we read Mark’s Gospel chapter 15 split into three sections. I wanted to concentrate not so much on the Sunday but rather look to the week that lay ahead for Jesus and discover something of those who witnessed his passion. There can be a risk of travelling from one joyful Palm Sunday to another joyful Easter Sunday with nothing between them for us to think on.
Every day we all witness something and our accounts of events differ, we enjoy the experience or find it traumatic.
If we know the people involved these things can cloud our judgement. And of course when our emotions run high, very often our logic runs low.
Three very different people from very different backgrounds, all are witnesses to the same events of this amazing week. All see them through very different eyes and with agendas, chosen or imposed, that affect their account of the week. Witnesses to the Passion of Christ:
Pilate – is a Roman who believed the Emperor was divine who believed in a whole host of different gods who controlled various situations of life. A politician who has 3,000 soldiers under his command.
His financial duties included the collection of taxes. Was this week enjoyable or traumatic for him?
He certainly would not have enjoyed these religious festivals.
When brought before Pilate Jesus made no reply.
Pilate was not comfortable in the face of Jesus’ dumb response and appeared to look for a compromise as he invited the crowd to let him release Jesus.
However their cry was ‘Crucify him’.
Was this Pilate’s logic at play or was he wittingly playing games with the emotions of the crowd? Which way could he turn that would make for a sensible solution for Rome?
Enjoyable or traumatic?
Only Pilate can answer that one.
Simon of Cyrene – it would appear was a Jew and probably came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
It is doubtful that he would know many people in the city and we do not know if he was aware of Jesus and his ministry. He finds himself a reluctant witness to a very public execution and the task of carrying Jesus’ cross fell to him.
At this point logic is in control of emotion.
Simon may not be a local man but he would have known full well the consequences of refusing direct orders from Roman Soldiers. I wonder though how long it took for emotion to take over as he witnesses this act of violence which has now become for him: in his face, up front and personal.
Simon may have been sensitive to the suffering of Jesus but he had to remain sensible for the sake of his own plight.
Enjoyable or traumatic I do not know. But quite safe to say life changing.
Joseph of Arimathea – a member of the Sanhedrin, this same group condemned Christ, the supreme council of the Jewish people. He was a prominent, wealthy and influential man in both the Roman and Jewish worlds and gained an audience with Pilate.
Joseph awaited the Kingdom and thought Jesus was the Messiah, yet he kept his beliefs to himself.
He was a “secret” disciple for “fear of the Jews.”
All his life he had worked to attain the level of success that he enjoys.
He must have been miserable as he watched Jesus tortured, mocked and crucified.
Joseph, the secret disciple, stepped forward. He who had hung back for fear of the Jews
courageously claimed Christ’s body from His executioners. It needed no small measure of courage
to declare now for Jesus, who had been a few hours ago condemned as a blasphemer by the Jews,
and as a seditious person by the Romans.
For Joseph there is a whole host of differences that make up his witness to the events of Holy Week.
He knew the condemners within the Jewish court.
He knew the Roman Pilate who had all authority.
A believing Jew who also believed Jesus to be the Messiah, he knew Jesus.
In such a supercharged situation it is difficult to imagine much logic in Joseph’s actions
for surely his emotional side had taken complete control.
None of it would have made any sense for those who witnessed his reactions and his open display of belief in Christ.
As we journey through this week what effect will these events have on us?
What witness will we display to the sacrifice of God for all our sakes?