Friday, 6 April 2012

Jesus gets in the way...

This afternoon I watched the Preston Passion which was an interesting take. I had been up and about since early this morning.  First of all joining a small group gathered to pray at the site for the Soul By the Sea, Brighton Passion, happening Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. Then it was straight off to the Walk of Witness around Hove. From there it was then time to walk back to St John the Baptist Church helping our Priest carry the cross back.  We received some very interesting looks!  Indeed we had some of those during the Walk of Witness which this year saw a very sizable group. We kept getting in the way of people trying to enjoy their Bank Holiday Easter weekend. I occasionally smiled and apologised, especially to drivers we held up on the road.  But overall I felt this was just about right. Jesus does get in the way. He does come and interrupt our lives and He has been doing this for the last 2000 years since that very first Easter Sunday morning.

Back to the Preston Passion – once again Pilate was spoken of as someone caught on the horns of a dilemma, weak and vacillating. What we know of Pilate and Romans in general could not be further from the truth. I am currently reading a book about Gladiators; not one of those that focus on the gratuitous violence, although there is plenty of that, but rather it seeks to understand and chronicle the rise and development of gladiators. It was not uncommon to have a spectacle where thousands of prisoners of war and unwanted slaves were forced to enact battles and slaughter each other. There is no way Pilate would have vacillated or shown weakness. He was a man in command and to show weakness was to show you were on the way out of your post!

However, I had read something in the Church Times, reflecting on Palm Sunday and the Passion suggesting that those shouting for Jesus on Palm Sunday were Galilean pilgrims gathering for Passover.  But those baying for Jesus’ blood were Jerusalemites who thought of Jesus as nothing more than a northern upstart.  Pilate was caught in the middle of this potentially dangerous squabble and had to do something or allow a riot!

Jesus comes before Pilate when Jerusalem is heaving with pilgrims and tensions are running high. Galilee was well known as a place to harbour rebels.  So could this be what Pilate was trying to weigh up? Does he have Jesus crucified and risk a Galilean upsurge and riot, possibly against the Jerusalemites and spilling out into an all out melee against the Romans? Or should he allow Jesus to be crucified and placate those baying for Jesus to be killed? And maybe, just maybe, there was at least a part of Pilate who spotted a stitch up when he saw one and he was not for playing that game.

The rest, as the proverbial saying goes, is history. (Yes, we are talking real history here!) Jesus is taken away, flogged and then crucified. No Galilean uprising or riots. Jesus followers melt away like the morning dew, with the exception of a handful of women. But they are of no importance and hold little or any status in that culture and time. This is one of the reasons why the Gospels are so remarkable – very, very bad PR move to have woman as witnesses.

Jesus disturbed people; He disturbed the religious leaders in Jerusalem, He disturbed Pilate and He disturbed some people in Hove today. What about you – who do you say that Jesus is and has He or is He disturbing your life?             

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