The People at the Passion (Part 1 of 3)

By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God loves everyone with everlasting love. He is our Father. We are His Children. He loves each one of us individually and wants us to know and love Him.

Jesus came to the world with a mission, to serve, redeem by being the sacrifice for our sins, and to establish the church through His apostles. The Church began with Jesus and spread with by His many disciples including the apostles.
Let us now begin, with courage, as we begin meditating on the people that were present during the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. I came upon a book titled Pieta, which listed the sufferings, indignities, and wounds that Jesus received during His passion and death. The number of armed soldiers were 150. The followers of Jesus, 23. Those in charge of putting Jesus to death were 83. The blows received on His head were 150, and on His stomach were 108, and kicks on His shoulders were 80. He was led, bound with cords by the hair, 24 times; spit in the face, 180. He was beaten on the body 6,666 times; beaten on the head, 110 times, He was pushed and lifted up by His hair; pricked with thorns and pulled by the beard 23 times; 20 wounds on the head; wounds from thorns in the head were 110; mortal wounds in the forehead were 3. He was whipped and mocked as a king and received 1000 wounds in the body. There were 608 soldiers who led Jesus to Calvary. Those who mocked Him were 1008. The drops of blood He lost were 28,430. Jesus Christ endured this for all of us.

Let us look more closely at some of the people that were there during the passion and death of Jesus Christ. After the Last Supper, Jesus took three of His closest Apostles to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed alone to do the will of His father. While they were there, the betrayer, Judas came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus.

Judas Iscariot

Who was Judas? He was one of the twelve apostles. He was the treasurer and trustworthy with the moneybag. After a time, he began to steal money. He betrayed Jesus with a kiss for thirty pieces of silver. After Jesus was condemned to die, he went out and hung himself.

Judas was greedy. Judas was possessed by the devil. Judas had to fulfill the prophecy. Judas had a political motive, he thought Jesus would become a King. We can learn from Judas, it does not matter to God how bad we are; He loves us and wants us to come back to him. Don’t judge yourself by what you have done, don’t think that you are unforgivable, and come back to the Lord like Peter did.

King Herod

Herod was a rich and important man. He had been hearing stories about Jesus. He knows the tax collectors and others of ill–repute are drawn to Jesus and repent for their sins. Jesus draws crowds of people where ever He goes, and he knows that when Jesus was 12 years old He amazed the rabbis with His knowledge of the scriptures. He is excited to meet Jesus and hopes to see a miracle.

Herod is the one who beheaded St. John the Baptist. He was captivated by St. John the Baptist and did not want to kill him, but he had no choice. He had a party, and his new stepdaughter, Salome. danced for him. Her dancing pleased him very much and he promised to give her anything she wanted. Her mother told her to ask for St. John the Baptist’s head.

His father was also named Herod. It was he who had all of the boy babies under the age of two killed when he heard about the birth of Jesus. Herod continued to question Jesus, but Jesus did not answer. Herod had hoped that Jesus would answer some of the difficult questions that his wise men could not. He was frustrated with Jesus because he had been so hopeful to see miracles performed, but it didn’t happen. The Jewish leaders were hoping that Jesus would not perform any miracles, so they were pleased.

Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, and he and Pilate became friends. Both the king and the Governor consider Jesus to be a criminal. Oh, how wrong they are! For He is the innocent One. Like them, we also twist reality, making the guilt innocent and the innocent guilt. Every time we blame others for what is wrong with us, we are at fault, blaming others for our sins.

Oh, how tragic, except we are not our own! God calls us by the Gospel and gives us faith. The Spirit works in our lives, bringing us to seek Jesus. Unlike Herod, we want to be in his presence for the right reason, to receive His Salvation!

Pontius Pilate

He was a Roman citizen and he ruled over all non-Roman citizens in Judea and Samaria. He lived in Caesarea. Pilate did not want to pass judgment on Jesus. He did not think that Jesus was guilty of anything and wanted to release Him. His wife also wanted him to release Jesus because of a dream she had. It was customary at Passover to release a prisoner to the people. There was a murderer named Barabbas in jail at the time. Pilate asked the people whom they wanted to be released, and they shouted Barabbas. He asked them what he should do with Jesus, and they shouted, crucify Him. Pilate again said, “I see no wrong in this man,” and they shouted again, “Crucify Him!” When he saw that his attempts to free Jesus only provoked the crowd to call his crucifixion louder, he washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourself.” (Matthew 27:24)

Pilate released Jesus because he wanted to please the crowd. Pilate was a people-pleaser more than a God-pleaser. How often do we want to please people, so they like us? Our human respect goes beyond our respect for God.

Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees

The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees were the ones who brought Jesus to Pilate. They were highly educated and knowledgeable of the scriptures. Jesus was humble and a carpenter from Nazareth. He was like a magnet, drawing many people to Him by His words and deeds. The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees were jealous and envious of Jesus, and that blinded them from being able to see and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. How many people today are blinded from knowing and accepting the truth because of their pride?

The Mocking of Jesus

The Mocking of Jesus involved not only the soldiers but crowds of people. They shouted: Hail, king of the Jews, as they made fun of Jesus. They put a purple robe on Him, the type worn by the soldiers. They put a crown of thorns on His head causing wounds and much bleeding. They spit at Him, His body, and in his face. They struck Him on his body and on the crown of thorns, driving it deeper into his scalp. Who of us would be able to endure what Jesus suffered for us? The brutality, the mocking? Jesus did this for us, to redeem the world by taking our sins upon himself on the cross. He died for you and me.

The Passion of Christ

After Jesus has been severely beaten, and crowned with thorns, he is ordered to carry the cross to Calvary. Jesus picks up His cross and begins His journey through the streets of Jerusalem to the hill of Golgotha. On His Journey, He falls three times. Each time he falls, he is beaten and pulled up by his hair or arms and also beaten and spit upon. He has lost a lot of blood and is very tired. When they finally reach Golgotha, he is brutally nailed to the cross, where he will soon die.

The hour has finally come. The Son of God whom we call Jesus Christ and believed as the savior of the world is arrested, and crucified as a criminal. At about three in the afternoon of Good Friday, God the Son died and was buried.
Jesus gave His whole life to serve the people. At the last supper, He gave away His body and blood as food for His disciples. His last breath while hanging on the cross was offered to His Father. Is there any better example of a life dedicated to service and the prize for doing it is utter humiliation, condemnation, and crucifixion?

Jesus lived His life in total surrender to the will of God. The plan of salvation is to be fulfilled in Him and through Him. How does this divine plan be carried out without the participation of Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod, and the countless nameless Jews who arrested, mocked, slapped, kicked, and beat Him? These people did the worst things to Jesus and their names and actions are remembered by generations after generations of Christians. Yet they are part of the divine plan although they were unaware of it.

We are all disciples of Jesus. Jesus is not the victim in this account. He willingly lays down his life for our sins.
Peter has the courage to use his sword at Jesus’ arrest and to be in the high priest’s inner court where there are people who may have seen him in the garden. But his courage fails and he denies Jesus. I think the lesson for disciples is to realize our own weakness, and rely on our own strength, but in humility rely on the Lord.

Jesus presents himself as the king of truth, with a mission to testify to the truth. We also must testify to the truth, some people will listen. Jesus is scourged brutally and then mocked mercilessly as king of the Jews, which he actually is! Jesus put up with this because he had a higher mission, to endure the Cross.

Pilate wants to avoid crucifying Jesus and tries several times to release him because he believes Jesus is innocent.
The Jewish leaders try to manipulate Pilate with fear, fear of punishing the son of God, Pilate is also afraid of losing his job. We as disciples need to make sure that fear is not controlling us rather than faith.

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