New Beginnings

Lectio: John 19:25-27 (NRSV)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.

Contemplation: “When Jesus saw his mother whom he loved.”

Meditation: The image of a mother standing by her crucified son is a dramatic yet tender scene from a human perspective. Jesus sees and attends to his grieving and panging mother, who is close enough to hear his last dying words. He ensures that she is taken in and cared for by John, his beloved disciple, when he says to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”

The gospel of John does not record the infancy narratives of Jesus, like the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In John, the mother of Jesus is not mentioned by name only as “the mother of Jesus.” The mother of Jesus is a person of initiative; she makes things happen. On both the wedding at Cana and now the cross, she mediates between endings to new beginnings. At the wedding, the wine runs out, and the celebration is threatened to end. The mother of Jesus intercedes, new wine is generated, and the wedding feast continues. At the cross, the dark hour of Jesus’ death has arrived. The mother of Jesus stands there, mediating, anguishing, laboring to do her part in bringing for the birth to the new life waiting to burst forth through the resurrection. On both occasions in John’s gospel, the mother of Jesus is compassionate, present, mediating between endings and the birth of new beginnings.  

Today I meditate on all the nameless women of initiative that intercede and panged to help birth new and promising beginnings through others and on behalf of others. I give thanks to my mother Olga, who I love, and who is still alive. I also give thanks to Maye’s mother, Maria Luisa, who is now with the Lord. Both of these women stood by Maye and me, mediating the endings and new beginnings of the different phases of our lives. I also give thanks to Maye, my life-long friend, and spouse. I continue to see her intervene and mediate when our children, and now our grandchildren, move through endings and new beginnings in their lives. 

Prayer: I pray for the grace to be a ready and willing mediator that pangs for necessary endings and new beginnings.

Who Is This?

Lectio: Matthew 21:1-11 (NRSV) When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Contemplation: “Who is this?”

Meditation: Bethphage, “house of unripe figs,” is a small village on the eastern slope of the Mt. of Olives, two miles away from the city of Jerusalem. Bethphage is the place where Jesus cursed the fig tree for not producing fruit, where he met Martha after Lazarus died, and where the disciples found the donkey required for his entry into Jerusalem.

A procession from the Bethphage Church to Jerusalem, reenacting Jesus’ last entry into Jerusalem, is held every year for Christian pilgrims that travel to Israel during Easter. The Holy Land tours I have been on the last two years include a reenactment of the procession from the top of the eastern slope down to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olives. The hill sharply declines and passes by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cemeteries that sit directly across from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. 

During Jesus’ time, the cemetery would have already been 1,000 years old and contained the graves of the greatest leaders, rabbis, and prophets. From the cemetery, you can look across the Kidron Valley to a grand view of the whole city of Jerusalem. It is possible to believe that when Jesus got to this point in his Palm Sunday journey to Jerusalem that he paused, and beholding the city, wept over it. He then said,  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! You do not recognize the time of your visitation from God” (Lk. 19:41,44). The tears of Jesus demonstrate great love for the city and its people. They also reflect a deep sorrow because he knew that, like many of the prophets before him sent by God to Jerusalem to bring them back into a covenant relationship, he too would be rejected and killed. And he shed tears because he could envision the violence and destruction the city would undergo by Rome. 

The multitude that accompanies the Lord to Jerusalem was composed of two groups of people that converged somewhere between Bethphage and Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, those gathered in the eastern villages the night before and those that came out from Jerusalem to meet Jesus waving palm branches to welcome him (John 12:13). 

Jesus receives the accolades and Kingly acclamations from the crowd that follow him from the Mt. of Olives into the city through the Golden Gate, a gate associated with the approach of the coming Messiah. But once in the city, turmoil begins. The Judean residents in Jerusalem for the Passover, ask, “Who is this? 

The question about Jesus’ identity from the Judeans is important because most of Jesus’ ministry occurred in the northern part of Israel around the region of Galilee. Jesus only came to Jerusalem for the Passover three or four times during his ministry.  While he was well known in the northern part of Israel for his teachings, healings, and miracles, Jesus was not well known in the southern part of Israel, or the region of Judea. 

The Galileans and other northerners accompanying Jesus, answer the question, “Who is this?,” by showing pride in Him as from Galilee, their own prophet. They proudly proclaim, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

That answer was later adopted to set the people of Judea against him resulting in his rejection and crucifixion (John 7:52).

I meditate today on how our conscious and unconscious biases about people based on the group they belong to can lead to rash decisions and discriminatory practices that have harmful outcomes.

Prayer: I pray for the grace to be self-aware of my biases so that I may do no harm.  

Mature Forgiveness

Note: The Lectio Divina based devotion below follows a Lenten journey called “By His Side.”  The order for daily scriptures throughout Lent comes from “Praying with Passion,” by Ken Taylor. The daily scriptures chronologically follow the passion of Christ from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. I focus on a particular word or phrase from the day’s reading and meditate on what the passage says about Christ, what it says about human nature, what it says about our relationship with Christ and others, and what I sense God is calling me to do, refrain from doing, or be mindful of as I seek to follow Christ “by his side.” 

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Lectio: Luke 23:34 (NRSV) – Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 

Contemplation: “Forgive them.”

Meditation: Forgiveness is a dominant theme in the gospel of Luke. To compare, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John mention forgiveness eleven, nine, and one time, respectively. Luke, by comparison, speaks of forgiveness seventeen times. God is the one that takes the initiative to forgive in the gospel of Luke. Jesus acts on earth to forgive sins with God’s authority. He tells his disciples to forgive the trespasses others commit against them as God forgave them. He also taught his disciples this: “If the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

The character and quality of the forgiveness Christ offers are redemptive and restorative, opening the possibility for an offender to stop offending and change for the better. It goes far beyond releasing a person or a people that cause injury and suffering from one’s power, concern, or attention. The forgiveness Christ offers does not erase a fault, but rather his forgiveness reacts to the gross misconduct against him without first desiring retribution or revenge against the offender. This quality of forgiveness allows the Holy Spirit to lead the offender to grow away from the sin condition that generated the fault toward God-centered moral, ethical, virtuous, and noble behavior. Growing apart from sin and toward Christ’s righteousness is a sign of repentance that arrives at the completion and absolute forgiveness of sin by God.

I meditate today on the spiritual maturity that true forgiveness requires so that the process of forgiveness itself comes to maturity. Mature forgiveness requires humility, patience, and confident hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to change people from sinners to saints. Mature forgiveness understands the need for space and time so that repentance can occur and the process of forgiveness completed and matured. When Jesus prays for the forgiveness of those that partook in his crucifixion, he was interceding between the people and God, pleading that God would withhold retribution and give the people time to repent of their sin and turn to him. Jesus created space and time for the process of forgiveness to mature. Its when we get to Luke’s second book, the book of Acts, that we see the process of forgiveness mature. 

When Peter preached at the festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem, 50 days after the crucifixion, he charges his fellow Israelites of not knowing what they were doing when they acceded to the crucifixion and killing of Jesus (Acts 2). He then proclaims that God raised Jesus from the dead and made him Lord and Messiah. When they heard Peter’s charges and proclamation in the power of the Holy Spirit, they were cut to the heart and asked what they should do. Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

When Jesus was praying from the cross for the forgiveness of the people that did not know what they were doing, he was opening up space and time for the Holy Spirit to bring about repentance and change in their lives. On that Good Friday two thousand years ago, his intercessory prayer opened up space and time for our repentance and forgiveness long before we came through those times in our lives when we did not know what we were doing. The space and time Jesus opened on Good Friday when he offered forgiveness allowed the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance, the forgiveness of sins, and the invitation to partake in costly discipleship that is met by God’s abundant grace. 

Prayer: I pray for the grace to offer mature Christ-like forgiveness that creates space and time for the Holy Spirit to work for the transformation of people and the world.  

Our Public Notice

Note: The Lectio Divina based devotion below follows a Lenten journey called “By His Side.”  The order for daily scriptures throughout Lent comes from “Praying with Passion,” by Ken Taylor. The daily scriptures chronologically follow the passion of Christ from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. I focus on a particular word or phrase from the day’s reading and meditate on what the passage says about Christ, what it says about human nature, what it says about our relationship with Christ and others, and what I sense God is calling me to do, refrain from doing, or be mindful of as I seek to follow Christ “by his side.” 

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Lectio: John 19:19-22 (NRSV) “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.”

Contemplation: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Meditation: Jesus is called by many names in the gospel of John. Each name connotes varying levels of knowledge or spiritual revelation and insight into his true identity. For example, in John chapter one alone, Jesus is called nine names. He is called the Word, Life, True Light, the Son of God, Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, and son of Joseph from Nazareth. In John 1:49, Nathaneal first recognizes Jesus as the King of Israel.

Besides Nathaneal, the people and Pilate recognize Jesus as a King. In chapter six of the gospel, Jesus withdraws to the mountains when he perceives that the people were going to take him by force to make him king. On the first day of the Passover, the people took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel!”

Pilate also recognized Jesus as a King. After hearing the allegations against him at his headquarters, Pilate summons Jesus and, in private, asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus acknowledges that he is a King, but that his kingdom is not from the world. Pilate presses, “So you are a king?” Jesus answers, “You say that I am a king.” Pilate finds no basis for the allegations against Jesus and tries to release him. He asks the people if he should release the King of the Jews, but the people adamantly reject his offer. Pilate eventually condemns Jesus to crucifixion against his own judgment and says, “Here is your King!” He then directs that a conspicuous multi-language inscription for public notice, be put on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The inscription on the cross also served to slight his subordinate, Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, who sought the title of King for himself.

A dispute soon arose at the Place of the Skull between the chief priests and Pilate about the semantics or meaning of the multi-lingual inscription written and put on the cross. The chief priests raise an objection to Pilate and ask that he amend the inscription because of its implications. The inscription, as written, declared and acknowledged Jesus to be the King of the Jews, rejected by his own people. The amended inscription lobbied for by the chief priests would convey the meaning that Jesus self-proclaimed to be King of the Jews, and was therefore crucified as an enemy of the Emporer and the Roman Empire. It was all about the optics or perception about who would be blamed for Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate holds to his decision by stating, “What I have written, I have written.”

Today I meditate on the many verbal and written inscriptions of Jesus I have heard and seen over the years. I realize that the statements characterizing Jesus’ claims and message influences whether Jesus is handled with disregard, ambivalence, or reverence. I also meditate on who I would publically profess Jesus to be if I had the opportunity to put an inscription or public note on the cross for all the world to see.

Prayer: I pray for the grace to fully know and make Jesus Christ fully known in all of his love, truth, and glory.

Moving Past the Past

Lectio: John 19:23-24 – “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.”

Contemplation: “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.”

Meditation: Those condemned to crucifixion were assigned to a four-member Roman execution squad. The squad’s job included stripping the prisoner of all clothing, leaving him to hang on the cross in nakedness, which the Jews regarded as a wanton shame. The crucified and naked prisoner would be unprotected from the natural elements, socially humiliated and dishonored. The message of the crucifixion was direct and straightforward. That is, crucifixion and death is the destiny of every enemy of the Roman Empire. 

The execution squad would then pillage and divide the prisoner’s private property, such as clothing and other personal effects, for their use or as trophies. John records that when the soldiers get to Jesus’ seamless tunic, they decide not to tear it up and divide it, but instead, to keep it intact and throw lots for it, the winner takes all. 

Today I imagine the long-retired and aged centurion that won Jesus’ tunic on a gamble going over to his chest of war trophies one afternoon and pulling out the seamless robe. As he holds the garment in his hands, he vividly remembers the Friday of Jesus’ crucifixion. He visualizes the flogging, Jesus’ arduous walk to Golgatha, the crucifixion, Jesus’s loved ones and followers standing helplessly near the cross, the tender words of Jesus to his mother, the piercing and flow of water and blood from Jesus’ side, the darkness, and the removal of the body from the cross. 

I wonder if the centurion ever felt sorrow for what he had done to Jesus and others he helped crucify during his time on the execution squads? I wonder if the Spirit ever penetrated his conscience and convicted him of his sin, leading him to seek forgiveness from God? I wonder if he was ever able to move past yesterday’s pain, step out of his darkness, and into Christ’s light, truth, life, and way?   

Today I meditate and pray for people that have suffered from heinous acts of injustice, violence, and dehumanization at the hands of others, and that can’t move past yesterday’s pain. I also meditate and pray for people that tortuously relive the devastating consequences of their past actions and that are in desperate need of God’s forgiveness but do not know how to seek or find it.   

Prayer: I pray for the grace to not harm and point people to God’s healing and forgiveness.

Consolation

Note: The Lectio Divina based devotion below follows a Lenten journey called “By His Side.” The order for daily scriptures throughout Lent comes from “Praying with Passion,” by Ken Taylor. The daily scriptures chronologically follow the passion of Christ from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. I focus on a particular word or phrase from the day’s reading and meditate on what the passage says about Christ, human nature, and about our relationship with Christ and others. I end the meditation with a prayer for God’s grace. 

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Lectio: Luke 23:27-31 – A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Contemplation: “among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him.”

Meditation: Jesus sees and stops to talk to a group of women along the road to Golgatha. Some interpreters say that Jesus is selflessly consoling the women in their pain. At the same time, he receives their love and cares for him. Other interpreters say that Jesus chastises the group of women because they are professional mourners making a disingenuous commotion like the ones at Jarius’ home (Mt. 9:18-26; Mk. 5:22-43, Lk. 8:41-56).

As a pastor, I’ve stood by many women in harrowing pain over the loss of a loved one. I approach this morning’s meditation with respect and empathy for the sorrow and pain the women in today’s scripture demonstrate. The women are not named. But, they symbolize all the mothers and women that weep and wail for their loved ones that suffer and die every day from disease, infections, accidents, suicide, violence, and malnutrition. Jesus sees all women in all times and places who weep and wail for those they love and can no longer see or hold. He visits and becomes present to them, consoling and healing their pain and suffering through means of grace such as scripture, prayer, worship, sharing in the sacraments, and Christian community. Jesus is also present when steps for justice are taken to remedy the perpetuation of needless and wrongful disease and death.

Prayer: Today, I ask for the grace to console the suffering and dying.

Bearing

Note: The Lectio Divina based devotion below follows a Lenten journey called “By His Side.” The order for daily scriptures throughout Lent comes from “Praying with Passion,” by Ken Taylor. The daily scriptures chronologically follow the passion of Christ from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. I focus on a particular word or phrase from the day’s reading and meditate on what the passage says about Christ, human nature, and about our relationship with Christ and others. I end the meditation with a prayer for God’s grace. 

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Contemplation: John 19:17 (RSV) – … and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol’gotha.

Contemplation: “bearing his own cross …”

Meditation: The verb “bearing” – Gk., βασταζω (bastazo) – means more than just the lifting or carrying of a heavy object such as a heavy wooden beam. “Bearing” as used in the context of John’s gospel and his account of the Passion of Christ has a metaphoric meaning that points to something more profound. When John says that Jesus bore the cross, it means Jesus lay down his life for others. It means that Jesus submitted himself to the sentence of crucifixion and all the suffering and torture that came with it with God’s peace and without complaint for the sake of the world. Jesus accepts crucifixion, not with despair, but with selfless love for others. By bearing, suffering, and enduring the cross, Jesus saves the world from darkness, falsehood, sin, and death. In his falling into the earth and dying, his life will bear much fruit. John says the fruit of Jesus’s life and ministry are those who believe that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, and thus have life in his name (20:31).

The verb “bear” is an essential term for John. He uses the verb 27 times, more than any other writer in the Old and New Testaments. In John’s gospel, Jesus “bears” several things. He “bears” witness to the light, witness to the inner thoughts of humanity, to what he has seen and heard in heaven, to himself, that the Father has sent him, to what the scriptures say about him, to the works of God, and he bears witness to the truth. God “bears” witness to Jesus. The Holy Spirit “bears” witness to Jesus. Jesus “bears” fruit and his disciples will “bear” much fruit and give witness to the world that they belong to him if they remain in him. When Jesus is consoling his disciples and telling them that he was going back to his Father who sent him, he stops and says to his disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot “bear” (support, endure, suffer) them now.

Today I meditate on all the people in the world that with love lay down their lives for others and bear their cross with freedom, authenticity, with joy, a desire to help others arrive at their dreams, and with complete inner peace.

Prayer: Today, I pray for the grace and peace to lay down my life with freedom, authenticity, joy, and a desire to see the best dreams of others achieved.

Unbroken

Note: The Lectio Divina based devotion below follows a Lenten journey called “By His Side.” The order for daily scriptures throughout Lent comes from “Praying with Passion,” by Ken Taylor. The daily scriptures chronologically follow the passion of Christ from the Last Supper to the crucifixion. I focus on a particular word or phrase from the day’s reading and meditate on what the passage says about Christ, human nature, and about our relationship with Christ and others. I end the meditation with a prayer for God’s grace. 

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Lectio: Matthew 27:27-30  (NRSV) – Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.

Contemplation: “The governor’s soldiers … gathered the whole cohort around him.”

Meditation: A Roman legion was composed of about 5,550 men, all professional soldiers who signed on for terms lasting 25 years. Each legion consisted of ten cohorts. Nine of the ten cohorts contained about 500 men each, in addition to 120 horse riders that acted as scouts and dispatch leaders. The leading cohort of a legion included 800 men.  

Matthew says that the “whole cohort” gathered around Jesus after he was condemned to crucifixion by Pilate and brought to the governor’s courtyard. I can imagine Jesus, a Jew, surrounded by five-hundred heavily trained, uniformed, armed, highly-coordinated, and battle-tested Roman soldiers. A couple of Roman soldiers would have been enough to instill fear in anyone, but 500, plus a few dozen horsemen? 

Ordered by legitimate authorities, the hardened 500 soldiers waste no time in going to work, physically and psychologically torturing Jesus as they focus all their destructive behaviors on him alone. They physically and psychologically torture Jesus by stripping him, mocking him, and by inflicting pain by pressing thorns into his head with blows from a stick. The soldiers strip Jesus of his clothes to create a power differential, inducing an immediate shame and creating an environment where the fear and reality of sexual assault is always present. There is no supportive community for Jesus now; he is completely isolated and alone except for God and the Holy Spirit that strengthened him in his moment of trial. I can imagine the raucous and callous laughter rising from the cohort as they wait to take their turn at Jesus, each one trying to outdo the other, while they deliberately and systematically try to break him down by degrading and dismantling Jesus’ identity and humanity.

Today I meditate on the unbreakable strength of Jesus to endure torture, hostility, shame, degradation, powerlessness, violence, and dehumanization from his captors.  I meditate on all sufferings of the violated and tortured all over the world and the hardships experienced by refugees and asylum seekers fleeing their homeland because of persecution or human rights violations in search of a safer, better life. I meditate on how Jesus shares in and is present with them in their experience. 

Prayer: Today, I pray for the grace to know the unbreakable strength of Jesus more intimately. I also pray for the grace to care for the unbroken migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers fleeing their homelands because of persecution and human rights violations in search of a safe and better life.

Stop the Flogging

Lectio: Mark 15:15 – Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.

Contemplation: “He had Jesus flogged …”

Meditation: The Romans maintained order over the populations they conquered through acts of state terror. Strangling, stoning, burning, burning with oil, flogging, and crucifixion was common and randomly practiced to instill fear in and deter rebellion by their subjects.

Flogging was part of the crucifixion process meant to publically humiliate and dehumanize a person in addition to extending their torturous pain and suffering. The instrument used to flog Jesus would have been a whip of leather strips, fastened with hooks, and iron balls very capable of tearing the skin off the ribs. The brutality imposed on Jesus through flogging and crucifixion would show the power of the Roman Empire to dispatch of threats to any person or group thinking about or acting to disrupt society.

Today I meditate on how Jesus shares in the dehumanizing and brutal experience of all people throughout the world living in fear, flogged by never-ending and vicious cycles of violence, intimidation, and repression.

Prayer: I pray for the grace to help stop violent, intimidating, and repressive floggings against humanity, near and far.

Whistle-blowers: Frumps, Foes, or Friends?

Lectio: Matthew 27:19-25  (NRSV) 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”

Contemplation: “his wife sent word to him”

Meditation: The name of Pilate’s wife is not mentioned; she is anonymous. But she plays a significant role as the events unfold in the Praetorium. She has not slept much the night before the day of Jesus’ trial because a dream about the injustice and suffering to come for Jesus stirred up her pathos. She sorrows and sympathizes with Jesus in his suffering in both her dream and now in his actual presence. The lucidity of her dream and the emotional pathos it evoked in her was not just a dream, she now sees it playing out in real life in the judgment hall, or Praetorium. She is one with Jesus, sharing in the intensity of his suffering and sorrows. Her moral conscious leads her to intervene and say something to Pontius Pilate, her husband, who can rectify the wrong by stopping the injustice taking place.

I can imagine that she hears a commotion outside her window in the early morning of Jesus’ trial. She goes out to see what the disturbance in the judgment hall is all about and takes notice of the agitated crowd, Barabbas, her husband, and Jesus, the one she dreamt about, standing by Pilate. She perceives the direction the mass is pushing her husband to judge, and she understands what the consequences of his decision will mean for Jesus. She decides to intervene to stop Pilate from condemning Jesus and sends a messenger to him with a warning: “Let there be nothing between you and the innocent man Jesus, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 

Pilate heeds no attention to his wife’s plea. The frenzied crowd has believed the false accusations against Jesus. They distance themselves from him to signal that they are not supporting Jesus or his seditious teachings and intentions. Their cries for Jesus’ “Crucifixion” are a show of loyalty to the Empire. Pilate succumbs to the pressure from the crowd, dissembling their allegiance to the Empire, and gives them what they want, a judgment against Jesus for subversive teachings against the Empire punishable by death by crucifixion.  

Today I meditate on all the people with the moral courage to act on conscious, risk their reputations and careers while intervening to stop the miscarriage of justice and suffering. I meditate on how people with the courage to stand up to social pressure to say something is wrong are often considered alarmists and disloyal. Those that speak up against something that is unacceptable pay a high price. They are often ignored, dismissed, threatened, retaliated against, disparaged, denigrated, shunned, seen as a frump, and even vilified. I meditate on all the people who are standing up for Christ, sharing in his sufferings, defending his life and message, but who are ignored.

Prayer: Today I pray for the grace to have the moral courage of Pilate’s wife to resist social pressure and speak up for Christ and when something is wrong and the humility to listen to and act upon the warnings of those that send messages to notify me that things are heading in the wrong direction.