JESUS AND THE DRAMA OF HUMAN SALVATION!
Today’s long Gospel narrative does not actually call for a homily. Nevertheless, a brief reflection would sale home the message Jesus has for us today. Today the last Sunday before Easter or Passion/Palm Sunday we bless palms and singing with the people as Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem. We hear an account of Jesus’ revelation of Himself, His distress, agony and the very many tribulations He went through: the betrayal of Judas, Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples, His institution of the Lord’s Supper, foretelling of Peter’s denial, prayer at Gethsemane, His request of keeping vigil and of His arrest; of Jesus before the high priest, Peter’s denial of the Lord, Jesus appearing before Pilate, the suicide of Judas, Pilate questioning Jesus, the people being given a choice between Barabbas and Jesus, Pilate handing Jesus over to be Crucified, the soldiers mocking Jesus, the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus and the top security guard at the tomb of Jesus.
Like a long and interesting drama, today’s Gospel is best understood by a synthetic analysis of the various dramatic personnel in today’s Gospel. It is also very important we identify ourselves in each of these personnel as the drama unfolds. One of the most outstanding and controversial personnel is Judas. Why was Judas paid thirty pieces of silver or thirty silver shekels? The origin of 30 shekels of silver is found in Exodus 21:32 where the law concerning property states that if an ox kills a male or female slave, the slave owner is entitled to be compensated with this amount of money.
Therefore, it logically appears that the life of Jesus was already assessed and appraised to be worth the price of a slave. Does it not sound bizarre, weird and uncanny that Jesus knowing what Judas was up to addressed him as ‘friend, why are you here’ whereas He knew why Judas had come and the mission he had. Was Judas not premeditatively bent on his heinous act; Jesus address to him as ‘friend’ would have been enough to prick his conscience and to give him a sense of remorse but all to no avail. He rather went and kissed Jesus. Wow! Ochi abu uto! Here in Judas we see the personality of Brutus! This betrayal is manifest in other Apostles of Jesus like Peter who denied Jesus even before a slave girl who worth nothing among the Jews and can’t even raise alarm on Peter’s presence had he accepted knowing Jesus. Nevertheless, Judas sinned heavily not because of his betrayal of Jesus but his resistance to God’s forgiveness and his subsequent suicide.
Other controversial personalities in today’s long drama are Caiaphas the High Priest and Pilate the Roman Governor. Here we see cowardice on the part of leaders who aren’t able to stand their ground when pulled by the crowd. Caiaphas had bits of jealousy for Jesus because the personality of Jesus who was already a trait to him as High Priest following from the very many challenging miracles of Jesus and divine manifestations in Him. On the other hand, because the Roman government had already overthrown the Palestinian world (before 6 century BC), the Roman emperor ruled the whole world through some Roman governors though the Jews in particular were given the privileges of self rulership only in matters of religion. The declaration of capital punishment was strictly reserved for the Roman Consul/Governor which was then Pilate. It was because of this fact that Caiaphas had to send Jesus to Pilate and thereof resolved his long standing severed relationship with him. One may ask, ‘whats this severed relationship’? It all began when the Jews insisted that the Temple task should only be used to maintain the Temple while the Roman Governor for Palestinian (Pilate) city desired to use such for basic amenities. The camel back’s was broken when Pilate sent a troupe of army to massacre the Jews on a peaceful demonstration regarding this matter. It was from then that the relationship between the Jews as chaired by the High Priest in charge of the temple with the roman governor was severed. Nevertheless, their cowardice in the face of justice paints them black in history even when Pilate’s wife tried to intervene for the sake of justice and all to no avail. It’s worth noting here that Pilate had the authority to save Jesus but he was already afraid of the Jews because of the above history. He rather washed his hands and allowed their gruesome hand on Jesus.
The Sanhedrin was a council composed of seventy-two members from the priests, the scribes and the elders. Through the vote of their majority, Jesus was condemned to death. I wonder, was this not the same crowd that shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mt. 21:9) The word “hosanna” in Hebrew means “save, we pray.” The crowd was asking to be saved from the dominion and oppression of the Roman Empire. The same crowed now seated at the Sanhedrin has condemned Jesus. Indeed, during the last week of His ministry on earth, the Lord Jesus was recognized as the promised Messiah and proclaimed as King by many of the Jewish people who had known Him and who had seen the power of God manifested through Him. Spreading their cloaks in the path of the Lord, they imitated the red-carpet treatment that was accorded to kings.
Jesus makes very many requests from His triumphant entry to Jerusalem till His crucifixion such as the donkey of an unnamed person, super room of unnamed person, an hour watch from His Apostles and that the Father sets this cross aside if it pleases Him. Unfortunately the request from His apostles was the most ungranted. Remember, each of us has got a donkey that the Lord needs for His triumphant entry, a super room for His last super. Don’t miss your chance offering the divine Person your donkey and your super room should it please him to use yours. Don’t be selfish. Why not offer Jesus these gifts today in the poor from where He cries out today in need of your help!
What different story would we be telling today if the unnamed owners of the donkey or the Room for the last super e.t.c had refused to give it up? Remember, the fact that the donkey had never been ridden, which means, it was brand new and had a very high market value. The donkey also did a tripartite function of a car for transporting people, a truck for carrying loads and a tractor for cultivating farm land. You can see that giving up the donkey just because the Lord needed it was a very big sacrifice. It was a generous and heroic act of faith. Maybe we would have no story of the triumphant entry in the way Jesus wanted it had the owner refused. No matter how unknown a person is, he or she can still play a crucial role in the unfolding of God’s plan. The Lord needs each one of us as he needed the unnamed owners in the reading.
Into every life comes a cross. There’s no way to avoid the cross that each of us must carry. Some are simply “more visible” than others. Yet no one escapes the ups and downs of the human condition. Sometimes the cross comes in the form of aging, physical suffering, disease, disability e.t.c. Other times it presents itself as a betrayal of friendship, an abuse of relationship e.t.c. Our cross might simply be the struggle to live out the wondrous yet demanding promises to love, honor and support one another “all the days of our lives.” Whatever the cross, Jesus tells us we must take it up. We must carry it. We must pick up our cross and walk with him. It is only in so doing that we can pray in this season with St. Alphonsus Liguori “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you; because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”