In the last blog we finished with the words of my hymn which puts Jesus entry into Jerusalem into some sort of theological context.
Because this sequence – of a procession of Joy followed by the way of the cross – is also a sequence we all must follow throughout our lives and certainly at its end. Life is rarely a bed of roses, and it has its ups and downs – sometimes following one or the other in frighteningly swift succession.
Today in Malta and throughout the world that way of the cross is very near for some and threatens many. Death will not be far off and most especially it is the poor who will suffer in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh, Haiti, Somalia and many other places where there is no health service of any sort (except for the 1%) no adequate hospitals, not even clean water. The poor are not only always with us – but they are as usual the ones who will bear the brunt of this pandemic.
Not merely not enough ventilators, they will not even have a bed, a nurse, some water to wet their dying lips or the dignity of a funeral however simple.
That was the death of disgrace and poverty on a criminal’s cross of shame that Jesus also was to suffer. When people say ‘where is God when people are suffering’ the answer is ‘on the cross – suffering there with them. That is the unique and amazing fact of the Christian faith. God is with us, and never more so when we are up against it’.
Jesus knew what was happening to him. How his enemies were closing in. How many expected him to fight, to raise a rebellion – probably some of those running along beside him waving the palms were hoping just that.
But this is where Jesus stands at the crossing of the old world and the new. The old pagan world was one of war, total and continual war – that was what the Roman empire was founded on and how it conquered, subdued and triumphed – through oppression. The only thing we have seen like it was the Nazis whose total war blitzkrieg was based on the same vile and pernicious creed.
Jesus took a different road. The way of the cross is not simply a way of passivity. Of accepting the greater force of the enemy and lying down in front of it – though that is what it seems like to those whose only language is ‘battle, victory and the crushing subjugation of others’. Pilate couldn’t understand it. He tried to encourage Jesus to speak up – to get himself out of this fix. But he didn’t. And somewhere in Pilate’s mind there is a doubt about why. Pilate was not a fool or an ignorant man. Something of what was happening in these events would have registered in his brain.
That is because Jesus was part of the historical context of his day. Part of the conflux or flowing in together of ideas and philosophies of that particular time.