The Passion narrative is filled with violence: Judas’s plot; a corrupt legal system; public humiliations of Jesus, along with a beating administered while in custody; and public torture and execution. Reading all this, one might conclude that such violence is inevitable or even God’s will. But Jesus’ arrest offers another possibility.
After Jesus has finished praying, we hear that Judas came leading a band of officers “with swords and clubs.” Even Judas’s kiss was a new means of violence. The disciples asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” but did not wait for the answer. That sword was used, injuring “the slave of the high priest.” Here continued a tragic cycle that seemingly never ends, extending all the way from Cain and Abel to our day. But notice that Jesus did something else. He commanded his disciples, “No more of this!” and then healed the one who had been injured, even though he was part of the mob that had come to arrest him.
I hope you see Jesus’ words and actions as more than a rebuke of his first-century followers. Had the brawl erupted, of course, they would’ve been no better than the others. But there is a word to us as well. In the midst of strife and hatred, Jesus shows another possibility for those who’ve perpetrated violence.
Jesus never condones violence, but notice what he says later in the narrative to the (violent?) criminal who died beside him: “Today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Lord, form our imaginations toward visions of reconciliation and peace. Amen.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Psalm 118 is a song of rejoicing, yet it also includes the prophecy that the cornerstone must experience rejection. Isaiah speaks of physical suffering, of being beaten, disgraced, and spat on. We see elements of this in the Gospel reading, where Luke describes the final moments of Jesus’ life. Bloodied and beaten, Jesus hangs on the cross and breathes his last. In Philippians, Paul places this drama within the eternal narrative of God’s redeeming work. Jesus leaves his rightful place and becomes flesh. He experiences pain and suffering, even the most humiliating form of death, crucifixion. Jesus can empathize with our suffering because he has suffered. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does the Suffering Servant speak to your life today?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How do you hear differently the familiar verses of this psalm when you read them together?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. Do you find it paradoxical to live as a beloved child of God and as a servant? If so, how do you live in this paradox?
Read Luke 22:14–23:56. How do you experience the extreme emotional highs and lows of Palm Sunday and Holy Week, even knowing how it will all turn out?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.