Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, also known as Sunday of the Passion. It is the day when we listen to a Passion Account from the scriptures — this year it is according to Matthew. We shall offer here in the following days meditations on the last hours of Jesus, especially using his last steps, traditionally known as the Way of the Cross. (There is an alternate form of meditations given in the blog, also accessible on this home page.)
The First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death by Jewish authorities and Pilate, the Roman Governor
From the Gospel of Matthew
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might have him executed.
60 But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two came forward
61 and made a statement, ‘This man said, “I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.” ‘
62 The high priest then rose and said to him, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?’
63 But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’
64 Jesus answered him, ‘It is you who say it. But, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy.
66 What is your opinion?’ They answered, ‘He deserves to die.’
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus.
2 They had him bound and led him away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.
11 Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘It is you who say it.’
12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all.
13 Pilate then said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many charges they have made against you?’
14 But to the governor’s amazement, he offered not a word in answer to any of the charges.
15 At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose.
16 Now there was then a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas.
17 So when the crowd gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’
18 For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.
19 Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message, ‘Have nothing to do with that upright man; I have been extremely upset today by a dream that I had about him.’
20 The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.
21 So when the governor spoke and asked them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ they said, ‘Barabbas.’
22 Pilate said to them, ‘But in that case, what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’
23 He asked, ‘But what harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’
24 Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.’
Just yesterday we heard the Gospel of the meeting of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. At that time Jesus said to her: I do not condemn you (John 8) and we recalled that earlier in John’s Gospel we have the quote that God so loved the world that he sent his Son, not to condemn but to save (John 3:16ff). Here at the First Station we are reminded of others condemning Jesus — one out of jealousy and one to please the crowd. Both should have known better. God’s own people failed to remember that God is the ultimate Judge and our lives are to be judged ultimately on his word. Pilate had the good Roman sense to know that justice is served when reality is the basis of judgment — Pilate knew the true reason why they sought Jesus’ death, jealousy, and he told them first: But what harm has he done? But Pilate was worried that they would turn against him. So he gave in.
God has the last word on everything. Our lives must be grounded in his word. Listening to his word is essential for life. Human authority, such as that of Pilate, is subject to God’s judgment as well. Fear of the Lord — a reverential respect and obedience to God — is also essential for life. Jesus has given us this double way of life. That is why he does not condemn us and gives us life through his death and resurrection.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you;
for by your cross and resurrection you have redeemed the world.