The annual Passion Week is a time of rest for the many who afford its holidays. But for Christians, the “Holy Week” is a period of reflection on the passion of Jesus Christ; the lessons from his sacrifice remain relevant today.
First lesson: The truth is not always found in the majority. Blasphemy and treason: the two offenses charged against Christ for claiming to be the “Son of God” and “King of the Jews”, titles that threatened the religious and secular authorities of the day. The charges were false and yet the majority called for his death; Christ was innocent and yet the Jewish leaders produced false witnesses and encouraged malicious stories to discredit his person.
The God of Christianity was a victim of trolls and fake news.
Caiaphas the high priest used the mob to play politics, a deed no different from today’s populist leaders, especially demagogues who gain their support by appealing to inadequately informed popular sentiments and biases rather than to truth and reason.
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Second lesson: Neutrality never helps the victim. Pilate recognized the trumped-up charges and yet politics dictated that an acquittal meant the rebellion of the “mobjority”. He skirts around the moral dilemma by transferring the case to Herod Antipas and then by ordering Christ to be scourged. Both tactics fail to satisfy the “mobjority” and so left with no choice, he condemns Christ publicly while literally washing his hands off from the guilt of shedding innocent blood.
The man who passes the sentence of death takes part in swinging the sword. Pilate tried to play neutral to deflect bad blood from both sides, but the truth remains: an innocent man will die with his consent.
The late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel reminds us:
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy …”
neutrality can take the form of a spectacle, but most people do it through the conspiracy of silence.
And perhaps it was the silence of his friends and followers, the betrayal through silence, that hurt Christ.
Third lesson: What is legal is not always moral. Pilate tried a legal remedy to “save” Christ through the annual Passover pardon. He offered the crowd a choice between Christ and Barabbas the Murderer; the “mobjority” chose Barabbas. Stunned, Pilate was forced to accede to the crowd.
The reason of morality holds no appeal to a fanatic mob.
When Herod the Great ordered the deaths of the babes of Bethlehem, the command was legal; it was mass murder by the state.
Legalism, the rigid, and often inhumane, observance of the law makes possible the death of innocent people like the Jews under the Nazis and the torture and murder of political dissenters during Martial Law.
The legal is not always moral; laws and their enforcement are not necessarily humane: thrashing the goods of vendors during sidewalk clearing operations is not moral but is considered standard operating procedure.
It is easy to be caught in tradition without practicing its truths. The passion of jesus Christ remains relevant today.
We must reflect to act.
Even now, Christ suffers; the least of his people are suffering injustice. And in the words of Oscar Romero, saint and martyr,
“Les suplico, les ruego, les ordeno en nombre de Dios: Cese la represión!”
“I beg you, in the name of God, stop the repression!”
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