The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” 48 When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; 49 but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. 50 Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, 51 had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. 54 It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, 56 they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment. (Luke 23:47-56) Continue reading
It is a sometimes very difficult pastoral situation, when a person has been truly wronged by the events that have unfolded with in a marriage, and I know that ultimately – in one form or another – I will let the person know that there are no innocent parties. Indeed some are infinitely more innocent, but in the end there is rarely complete innocence.
Indeed we stand rightly condemned. But this gospel reveals that in the simple act of trust, there is salvation, beyond merit or worth, beyond categories of innocence or guilt. There are no scales. There is only the promise that our Savior remembers those who trust. We stand before complete innocence. Continue reading
Up to this point in the narrative the chief priests, scribes, and leaders have been the ones who have been active throughout the arrest, hearing and trials of Jesus. While in the privacy of the Sanhedrin gathering, the charges brought against Jesus by this group were religious. Once the assembly moved to the public forum involving Pilate, the charges became secular – “misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king.” (23:2) In the start of this section, “the people” are now present. Previously the people have supported Jesus (cf. 19:47-48, 20:1, 20:6, 20:19, 21:38) – what will they do now? Continue reading
Alan Culpepper commented that reading the arrest and trials of Jesus is, for him, like watching film footage of John Kennedy’s motorcade winding through Dallas in 1963 or the 1986 launch of the Challenger space shuttle. We know what is coming, we know we have no power to undo them, but are compelled to watch because we honor the loss of great people doing what was theirs to do.
At a more intimate level we know that the encounter of Jesus and Pilate is a scene wherein both face the test of their convictions. Pilate knows and announces the verdict – innocence, but in the face of an unruly crowd does not have the conviction to persevere. Neither Herod nor Barabbas provide an avenue to resolved the crisis when the leaders of Jewish Jerusalem are ever at work to animate the crowd to bend Pilate’s to their will. Continue reading
Where in the scene of Peter’s Denial (Luke 22:54-65), the focus and center of the narrative was Peter, here the focus returns to Jesus. Is this trial (hearing, meeting) by the religious authorities of Jerusalem, the role of Jesus as prophet and Messiah is at the forefront of the narrative. Jesus had foretold the primary events of this scene—both Peter’s threefold denial before the crowing of the cock (v. 34; vv. 56–61) and his own maltreatment (esp. 18:32; cf. 20:10–11 and 22:63–65). Continue reading
Today is known as “Spy Wednesday”, a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for thirty silver coins. This event is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6. We know that Judas’ betrayal was but part of a larger vortex of events that would lead to Jesus’ arrest, trails, scourging, crucifixion, and death. Only Matthew (Matthew 27:3-6 ) narrates Judas’ own death.
For all this, Judas’ name is synonymous with betrayal, and Dante, in Canto XXXIV of his “Inferno,” places him in the very lowest circle of Hell, being devoured eternally by a three-faced, bat-winged devil. Virtually every image we carry about Judas comes from Dante or a later artistic portrayal of the man – e.g., reddish hair color (Harvey Keitel in “The Last Temptation of Christ”) or his fiery disposition (“Jesus Christ Superstar”). Continue reading
The arrest of Jesus leads into three successive and connected scenes: Peter’s denial (vv. 54-62), the mocking of Jesus (vv. 63-65), and the trial before the religious authorities (vv. 66-71). What is interesting is that in the midst of the Passion narrative of Jesus, there is the scene in all four gospels that concentrate on Peter and his response. Luke’s account is unique in the following respects: sequence – in that the denials occur in the courtyard before the mocking and interrogation; structure – Luke does not connect the denial as a caused by the trial; and detail – such as the servant girl sitting at the fireside where there is light to clearly recognize Peter – and most vividly, it is Luke that reports Jesus looked Peter “dead in the eye,” bringing the full gravitas of the denials to Peter. Continue reading
Of course we all know that after the meal with his disciples that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Actually, no gospel says that. Matthew and Mark wrote that he went to a garden. John says he went to Gethsemane. Fuse them all together and you get the “Garden of Gethsemane.” What does Luke say? Luke only calls it “the place.” There is no garden specifically mentioned nor is Gethsemane. Is it important? Well, it is a reminder to be attentive to the text before you and not meld the familiar stories and scenes from other sacred writers. Each sacred writer has something distinctive that can be missed if one fuses all the details from other accounts. Continue reading
The experience of watching Notre Dame burn is at least a reminder that places matter. Physical places become sacred spaces because they are the places where we find God — or more accurately, places where God finds us. Cathedrals like Notre Dame were built to be a visual teaching tool in a largely illiterate culture. They proclaim the gospel without words. Historian Jon Meacham described the cathedral as a “physical manifestation of an unseen reality.” He said that one of the most important words in scripture is “remember” and that he shows up at mass whether he feels like it or not in order to remember and experience again the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Perhaps the image of the Notre Dame cross glowing amid the smoke and ashes will draw us back to the sacred places where we remember and experience the presence of the One who said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:24-32)
Jim Harnish, Why the Fire Matters
In the midst of the Passover to break out into an argument about who would be the greatest – imagine. This scene at table is reminder to be attentive and the problem of discernment to know what is important – especially in “real time.” The problem is that all of us have a Thanksgiving meal, a birthday party – a time when something important was at hand – and we argued about the most trivial of things.