These are hard passages to read when you really let the reality of what is happening sink in. Jesus was innocent of any crime deserving the death penalty. Being hailed as “King of the Jews” was the truth. Yet, it was shouted in anger, in disgust, in mockery. They were certainly thinking, if Jesus was truly a king, he would not be in a position such as this.
As a kid growing up, I always thought the bad guy was Pilate. I suppose a Roman governor was considered a “bad guy” by many of the Jews for how he treated them. The Roman rule was oppressive and the people wanted to revolt against him. Yet the Pilate we see in today’s story seemed to have a bit of a conscience.
In today’s reading we encounter Judas. From the sounds of it, he didn’t know he was setting Jesus up for death. He tried to make it right. When he couldn’t, the torment inside of him was too great. His remorse for giving up an innocent man was too much to bear. Judas took his own life.
Suicide has become very prevalent in our society. We have all been touched in some way by someone’s choice to end their life. It’s a hard thing to reconcile. I’ve lost several people very close to me…way too soon. The reasons vary from individual to individual, but there is always an element of remorse or feelings of inadequacy. Judas tried to make it right. There was no way he was going to hold on to that blood money. His friends would never accept him after what he’d done. Judas didn’t believe there was any other choice, but was there?
Have you ever been confronted by someone asking you if you were one of “those” people, meaning Christian? It can be a bit deflating. It can put you on your guard. Why are they asking? But what about Peter? Obviously, he wanted to keep tabs on what was happening with Jesus. He was not far from where Jesus was being questioned. Was he trying to stay incognito? I’d have to say his denials here were pretty strong and convincing.
To say you don’t know the man, and then even welcome a curse if you’re lying seems very extreme. I don’t think Peter was in his right mind. Jesus had predicted it perfectly. At the crow of the rooster, Peter, too, recalled Jesus’ words. Peter also recalled how adamant he had been that he would never do that to Jesus. Now, it had happened. What else can you do when you are so over-wrought? Peter went and wept bitterly, we are told.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of being arrested (and thankfully I have never been), I think of being thrown into a stinky jail cell with a filthy toilet and a torn up mattress for a bed. However, Jesus’ experience is not like what you see on TV at all. He was taken to the high priest, Caiaphas. After all, it wasn’t the authorities who wanted him dead, it was the religious leaders who feared his power.
So, Jesus’ arrest and arraignment would be handled by religious leaders. It’s really quite laughable when you apply the scenario to what we know of the legal system today (at least in the U.S. –it’s what I’m familiar with after having been a paralegal for 30+ years). Yet, God’s plan is playing out beautifully.
It’s dark. You can probably hear the crickets chirping. It’s peaceful, yet Jesus has just been ripped apart inside as he prepares for what is to come. There are lights in the distance. They are getting closer. You can hear the crunching of the ground under the feet of a mob. It’s a crowd intent on one thing. Jesus’ arrest.
God has used Judas to bring us to this moment. Judas has done a despicable thing. He is the traitor who has given up the Son of God for just 30 lousy pieces of silver. Yet, as he arrives with this throng of people, including religious leaders, Roman soldiers and onlookers (you know, the gawkers), he approaches Jesus, as a friend, with a kiss.