Why did Jesus have to die? Who was responsible? Was it
Judas, who chose to betray him for thirty pieces of silver?
Or maybe we could blame Jesus’ disciples as a whole. If only
they had intervened on his behalf instead of running away like
cowards, things might have turned out differently. Surely the
rabble also played their part in Jesus’ death. When Pilate offered
them the chance to let Jesus go free, they scoffed at it, choosing
to free Barabbas instead. ”Crucify him!” they screamed. It doesn’t
get much clearer than that. Then we have Pontius Pilate, the
Roman governor. He had the power to release Jesus. And he
alone had the authority to condemn him to death. ”I am innocent
of this man’s blood,” he said as he washed his hands in front of
the crowd. But was he? Especially when he felt convinced of
Who was responsible for Jesus’ death? We know that
Christians have always understood the happenings surrounding
Jesus’ death as part of God’s salvific plan for the redemption of
the world. Is God then somehow to blame?
Perhaps we could point the finger at ourselves. Maybe we
are to blame. Humankind. Did Jesus not die for our sins? Making
us in turn responsible for his death?
A complicated matter, a simple answer to all these questions:
yes. We all are guilty. God, however, is only guilty of
love. Divine unfailing love for us brings death to self before
seeing his loved ones suffer. And this love sets us free. Even
Loving God, you would go to hell and back for me. In fact, you already have. In you I am free. Help me to lay claim to this truth in my life today. Amen.
These texts raise questions about who truly welcomes Jesus and under what circumstances. Isaiah 50 recalls the hostility that inevitably follows servanthood. A moment of acceptance, even welcome, will not hide from the servant the fact of the rejection to come. Psalm 118 claims that the city and the victory and the “one who comes” all belong to God. Any victory declared by human beings is bound to vanish as quickly as the day itself. The Philippians hymn asserts Jesus’ own determination to be obedient even to death and God’s conse- quent exaltation of Jesus above all creation. Even in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ entry is one of meekness and humility rather than of power and pride.
• Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you rejoice in “the day that the LORD has made”?
• Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. The writer notes that for Isaiah, suffer- ing does not signal divine indifference but plays a part in the world’s bigger story. When have you interpreted your suffering as part of a bigger story?
• Read Philippians 2:5-11. What earthly traits of Jesus’ are evident in your daily living? Do you see yourself living a countercultural lifestyle?
• Read Matthew 21:1-11. Where are you in the Palm Sunday story? How do you respond to Jesus as he enters?
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