In the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to John, we have observed how Judas took the cohort and the police supplied by the chief priest to arrest Jesus in the garden. Jesus did not resist arrest but willingly gave himself up. He did not allow Peter to use violence. Arrested and bound, Jesus was led to Annas who after questioning Jesus, led him bound to the high priest Caiaphas. At day-break, Caiaphas handed Jesus over to Pontus Pilate, from whom they obtained their desire to put Jesus to death by crucifixion, after they had made false accusations against him. Jesus was led carrying his cross to Golgotha where they crucified him. In his trial and sufferings, Jesus courageously accepted the Will of the Father; he has clearly revealed that he is a king, whose kingdom is not of this world, hence, he did not allow his followers to fight to prevent his arrest; he has come to bear witness to the truth. Jesus made clear to Pilate that he had no power over him, unless it was given him from above.
Seeing that Pilate did not find Jesus guilty, but innocent, we ask ourselves, why did he yield to the pressure of the Jewish leaders to crucify him? How can we grapple with the death of the just one? What does the death of Jesus mean for us? To understand the reasons underlying the death of Jesus, we do so in the light of the fourth song of the suffering servant of Yahweh, as we read in our first reading taken from Isaiah 52:13- Isaiah 53:12. It is about the sinless servant, who by his voluntary suffering atones for the sins of his people and saves them from the punishment they deserve. This prophecy is perfectly fulfilled in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. What was seen as a tragedy, a failure or a defeat on the part of God, is a success on his part; for with him nothing is impossible. It is through self-sacrifice, suffering and self-giving that he achieves salvation. Just because he is the victim of hate, injustice and violence, the servant frees even his own persecutors from their iniquities.
For us who believe, the death of Jesus is innocent, vicarious and redemptive. It is innocent because, he is the sinless Son of God. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly (1 Peter 2:22-23).” His death was vicarious. That is death on behalf of the guilty. “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that free from sin, we might live for righteousness (1Peter 2:24). His death was redemptive. “By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2: 24-25).” The death of Jesus was out of his love for the suffering humanity. It reveals him as the merciful and faithful high priest who was tested in trials and yet did not sin. Sympathetic with those who struggle along with moral weakness, he has opened the way to God’s throne of mercy. We are told that Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (see Hebrews 4:14 – Hebrews 5:9).
In his death, Jesus calls us to a closer and more perfect discipleship. At the last supper, after washing the feet of his disciples, he asked us to do as he has done. In his passion, he has taught us to be faithful and courageous in following him perfectly. He wants us not to follow him half way but whole-heartedly and completely. That is why he spoke the words on the cross to his mother and to the disciple whom he loved who were standing-by. A true disciple must always stand with Mary at the foot of the cross in the person of that un-named disciple whom Jesus loved. Mary will always behold each of us as her child and each of us must always behold Mary as our mother. In this way, we can always identify with Jesus in his joyful mysteries, in his sorrowful mysteries and eventually in his glorious mysteries. This is the core of every true discipleship. In this way, we can weather victoriously the trials and challenges of life. As we carry the cross in union with Mary to follow Jesus, may we come to the glory of the resurrection in the end.