CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: The Trial of Jesus
Due to it's length, today's Gospel is included after the meditation.
Meditating on John’s description of Good Friday in the fourth Gospel strikes a deep wound amid this pandemic. Although we know that this is not the end of the story, as followers of the way of Jesus, we approach the Good Friday events with solemnity and seriousness to allow ourselves to feel the pain of those events.
Our hearts, minds and bodies are exhausted from the year we have had. From this standpoint, we experience the story filled with sacrifice and pain in a new way. We sacrificed for the good of the community. We have worn masks, sheltered in place and lost those we love. Yet, we have also loved—and perhaps loved more profoundly than before.
Acknowledging our own circumstances leads us to enter into Jesus’s arrest, trial and passion with a new perspective. We find Jesus just outside the city at the Garden of Gethsemane, the place that all four gospels mention as a place of retreat and prayer. I can imagine the pressure of people around Jesus, with each person caught up in their own world. Jesus is the one connected to God's world—God's Kingdom. The people around Jesus are examples of our humanness—the need to control and to direct, the need to defend and to protect.
After his arrest in the garden, Jesus is taken to Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law, and then to Caiaphas for a formal trial. Caiaphas' family was powerful, yet the Sanhedrin did not have the power to sentence a person to death. Caiaphas, John tells us, sends Jesus to Pilate. Pilate was the supreme authority for Rome in Jerusalem as the "procurator," or praefectus, over Province of Judea. Pilate was a cruel and violent leader, and his army of soldiers would have already been in Jerusalem for Passover. Pilate likely made Herod's palace his center of Roman government. In the last few years an archeological discovery has shed light on the location of the trial. Archeologist have found what they think are the western steps where the soldiers had easy access to Herod the Great’s Palace.
A gate, which served an entry way into Jerusalem, has been uncovered at the western wall. Excavations show wide steps are likely the Gate of Essenes mentioned by the historian Josephus, and through that gate would be direct access to Herod’s palace. We think that Pilot would have used Herod’s palace while he was in Jerusalem. The layout of Herod the Great's palace supports the description in the Gospel of John. The praetorium refers to the entire compound surrounding Herod's palace and site of Jesus’s trial. John 19:13 associates the trial with “stone pavement” at the Praetorium as Pilate took his place at the bema or “judgement seat” (John 19:8-13).
[Image: James Tabor, UNCC. Used with permission.]
The location of Jesus's trial and crucifixion is supported by archeological evidence. The Gospel of John says that Jesus "went up" to Pilate, which could refer to the going up to an elevated platform, the bema, for judgment. Roman-controlled territories would have a seat of justice in a public area, often raised on a platform. The discovery of the western steps gives weight to the argument that Jesus was tried on the west side of Herod's place with the seat of judgment elevated on a platform accessible to the public. The double entry walls cut into the structure at the lower level would provide secure access to the platform and the palace interior, explaining the shift between interior and exterior aspects of the trial. The Gospels are not in agreement in terms of whether the trial happened outside or inside. The Gospel of John suggests that the trial toggled between the outside and inside. John says Pilate "went out again” suggesting that Pilate deliberated in at least two areas. Herod's palace's western side allows part of the trial to be at the bema and then to continue inside the palace walls before returning to the bema platform.
The archaeological evidence of the complex gives insight into the trial, the officials and the movement around the city. We can envision Jesus' move from the Garden of Gethsemane to Caiaphas' palace, from the western entrance of Herod's palace to the seat of judgment and the bema where Rome's rule was enforced. In the face of the powerful Roman command, the crowd would have observed the trial, but they were powerless to act.
Jesus is caught up in the machinations of men in power. Being sent here and there, yet each step of the way, Jesus chooses to forgive with gentleness and love.
Jesus forgives those who use violence in his name, saying to Peter “put your sword into its sheath.” (John 18:11)
Jesus shows compassion towards Pilate, who, we are told, tries to return Jesus to the people. Jesus exudes calm confidence amid the political and emotional storm circling around him.
My eyes are on Jesus this Good Friday. Jesus meets our need to control, protect and defend with gentleness, love and forgiveness. On the cross, Jesus turns his attention to Mary and John. Jesus connects his closest disciple with Mary saying, “Woman, behold your son” and to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26) Mary’s pain is raw, and Jesus is in the midst of this very human and divine story, transforming it through gentleness, compassion and forgiveness. Jesus embodies the presence of God's transforming love on the cross.
My prayer is that we can fix our eyes on Jesus this Good Friday. In our pain and sorrow, we lift our eyes to Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice to show God's love for us. Perhaps we can pray like Francis of Assisi with his words when meditating on the Passion of Christ:
My Lord Jesus Christ,
two graces I ask of you before I die:
the first is that in my life, I may feel,
in my soul and body, as far as possible,
that sorrow which you, tender Jesus,
underwent in the hour
of your most bitter passion;
the second is that I may feel in my heart,
as far as possible,
the abundance of love with which you,
Son of God, were inflamed,
so as willingly to undergo
such a great passion
for us sinners.
Jenny Beaumont is the missioner for adult and lifelong formation for the Diocese of North Carolina.
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" They answered, "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law." The Jews replied, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
"They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots."
And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
- John 18:1-19:42
Tags: Caminando with Jesus