This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications and is included here with their permission.
- Jesus judged by Pilate (Mark 15.1-15)
The Living Word of God stands silent before Pilate. The Light of the World allows the darkness of injustice to descend upon him although, in the end, it will not overcome him.
Pilate looks for a way out of this nightmarish situation which will preserve his authority whilst also bringing about the release of an innocent man: a man who, even in his silence, has an air of authority and integrity such as Pilate has never before encountered.
But in the end Pilate surrenders his own sense of justice for the sake of political expediency and to appease a mob of angry protesters.
As we picture Jesus standing before Pilate let’s allow his light to shine in the darkest places of our hearts and minds, casting out the shadows of our own weaknesses and strengthening us to speak up for all who are unjustly accused and condemned today.
- Jesus carries the cross (Mark 15.1-20)
Jesus said, “anyone who wishes to be a follower of mine … must take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16.24).
As we watch Jesus taking up his cross, the unbearably heavy burden that he now has to bear, we face this terrible truth: following Jesus can be costly and lonely. It can demand the sacrifice of everything we cling to in life.
We see Jesus struggling under a heavy weight which is almost too much for him in his physically weakened state. But he struggles also with the weight of betrayal, denial, injustice, cruelty and fear of what is to come.
It’s hard to watch him because we may have undergone similar struggles or caused similar suffering to others. But Jesus carries all these burdens for us so that we may know the freedom of his healing and forgiveness. For that freedom surely we would indeed sacrifice everything.
- Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross (Mark 15.21)
Jesus is too exhausted and weak to carry his cross by himself. A stranger is forced to help him. We can only imagine this encounter between Jesus and the stranger but something about it must have changed the stranger’s life and connected him with the disciples of Jesus. How else would Mark know his name, his sons’ names and where they came from?
Jesus is sweaty, bloody, racked with pain and already close to death. Simon is a man just going about his day to day life, certainly not expecting to be forced into helping a criminal on his way to execution.
Can it be that even in these bitter circumstances Jesus is still able somehow to draw someone to himself, to offer him new life and to assure him of God’s love and forgiveness? Let’s dare to believe that it can be so.
- Jesus is crucified (Mark 15.22-24; Luke 23.34)
Crucifixion overwhelms our senses: the sight of twisted tortured bodies; the smell of blood and sweat and other bodily excretions; the taste of fear in our mouths and the feel of splintered wood, metal nails and human flesh that we dread touching because it feels like our own and we can’t get that close. We can’t begin to imagine what our victims see, hear, smell, taste and touch – we daren’t try. We have to treat them as less than human or we’d go mad with the horror of it. We don’t like doing this – we obey orders. It’s not our responsibility, not our fault. We just carry out their wishes in the only way we can.
We mock, we hammer and we ignore the screams and the wailing relatives.
But I can’t ignore what he said today, “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”.
- Jesus dies on the cross (Mark 15.34-337; John 19.30; Luke 23.46)
“Jesus cried aloud …. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” (Mark 15.34)
“Jesus said, ‘It is accomplished!’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19.30)
“Jesus said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ and … died”
Jesus, Son of Man, cries out his overwhelming sense of having been abandoned by God, left alone to suffer his last moments of life.
Jesus, Son of God, cries out his belief that he has accomplished God’s purpose for him through being obedient even to death.
Jesus cries out his offering to God of his spirit and, just as when he offered himself for baptism, perhaps we hear an echo of God saying “You are my beloved Son; in you I take delight”
At the end, Jesus is not abandoned by his Father but received with joy into his eternal hands and given new life.
- Jesus laid in the tomb (Mark 42-47)
At last the torment is over. Jesus can no longer feel the pain of the flogging, the thorns crushed into his head and the nails hammered through his flesh. He is no longer betrayed, humiliated, taunted, accused or condemned. He is no longer a public spectacle, a figure to be mocked and derided. His body lies in the dark, quiet coolness of a tomb and a great stone prevents anyone from abusing his body any further.
At last the torment is over for Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magalene, John, the beloved disciple, and others who loved Jesus. But their agony at watching him die so terribly is replaced by an unbearable dread of a lonely future without him.
They are now the abandoned ones and they wait, although they don’t know what it is they’re waiting for. Is this really the end? Is it really finished?