Noble: Good Friday trials—compromised leaders don’t recognise their power

We tend to centre the Easter weekend observances on the Resurrection in our modern-day society. We skip past Good Friday—but there would be no Easter without Good Friday.

We must face Good Friday’s trials and darkness before we can appreciate the dawn of the Resurrection. The events of Good Friday enable the victory represented in Easter.

Jesus carries his cross.

In a few short days, the glorious entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem turned into a time of uncertainty for the disciples. Did they get it all wrong? What else could happen to them? Does anything matter?

These questions still find root in our human experience. We ask these questions when the walls of impossible, unexpected situations close in on us. Like the disciples, we question ourselves when we face problems with forces beyond our control.

There are lessons to be learnt from the responses and behaviours of the two main characters: Pilate and Jesus.

The trial of Jesus is captured in the painting ‘Christ Before Caiaphas’.
This was done by Italian painter Duccio di Buoninsegna before Michelango’s ‘Italianised’ version of Jesus.

Pilate was the Governor of Judea. The Romans imposed him. Yet, he faced an unruly and rebellious people.

He created an ally in the High Priest, Caiaphas, when he did not replace him upon ascending to the governorship. But this relationship brought the momentous decision about crucifying Jesus.

The religious establishment of the day felt threatened by Jesus’ teaching and sought to be rid of him. However, only Pilate had the authority to carry out or authorise this execution.

Upon questioning Jesus, Pilate told the religious leaders that he could not find a reason for execution under Roman law. In a pointed exchange, Pilate asked Jesus whether he was ‘the king of the Jews’.

Image: Governor Pontius Pilate considers what to do with Jesus…

Jesus, in response, told him: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest.”

The ongoing Strategic Services Agencies debacle and the horror of Evangelicals supporting Donald Trump, an immoral man, to achieve their political goals fly in the face of Jesus’ declaration.

When we use the words “Jesus is King” to advance our political agendas, we miss the point. Those words affirm the centrality of Jesus in our lives. They reject any desire to use political and other means to gain temporal power.

Then United States president Donald Trump (left) greets supporters at a rally during his election campaign.
(Copyright Business Insider)

The religious leaders were seeking an execution, not a fair trial. Pilate flogged Jesus in the hope that this would satisfy the Jews and allow him to release Jesus. It did not.

When the Jews pressured Pilate, Pilate tried to assert his power over Jesus. He claimed to have the power to either free or crucify him. Jesus pushed back. Jesus affirmed that Pilate had no power unless God gave it.

Do our present religious leaders collaborate and cosy up with political leaders because they do not recognise the source of their power?

A satirical take on religion.
Image: Glasbergen.com

The religious leaders of the day forced Pilate into a moral compromise. They advanced the position that to free Jesus was to be anti-Caesar! This was a not-too-subtle attempt at blackmail.

They challenged Pilate with a possible report to his boss. Pilate sentenced Jesus to death so that he may have respite from the screaming religious leaders.

How often do we do things against our better judgment because we want to succeed as society defines? After we do this, are we happy with the person we have become? Do we even recognise who we would have become?

An illustration of Jesus in the temple, as he rages at the money lenders.

Sadly, in Pilate’s case, his future did not materialise the way he expected. He was soon removed. Do we consider this potential outcome when we choose to compromise?

We, too, can lose when we think we win by striking a compromise.

The decision to crucify Jesus unleashed other events. There was an earthquake and three hours of darkness in the middle of the day.

Jesus cried: “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet he did not waver from doing the will of God.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

It may have appeared that he lost, but consider the gains. The symbolic tearing of the temple curtain represented the possibility of a new relationship between God and man.

The years of domesticating the cross have made it challenging for us to appreciate the horror of crucifixion. Dying on the cross represented not only physical pain but deep shame. It speaks of God’s love and the depths of our wickedness.

In Luke 22: 42, Jesus is quoted: “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done.”

The Resurrection…

This quote represents our struggle: how much of our will are we prepared to give up? What will be our decision about control of our will?

Because of Good Friday, we do not need to grovel to establishment figures. The source of our strength is plainly revealed.

We can become people who live in truth, hope and humility. We can march to a different drummer. Let us never compromise ourselves for fleeting gains.

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About Noble Philip

Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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