Thursday, April 10, 2014

Matthew 26:14-27:66

This Sunday we will distribute the reading of the Passion Narrative of St Matthew's Gospel amongst various readers.  It's not because we can find no one energetic enough to do the whole thing him/herself.   Nor is it the Rector's latest collectivist plot to distribute work and privileges across the widest possible community of people.  It is simply a very old tradition that the historical participants in the Passion of our Lord were people like us and that we should reflect our own involvement in the story - even our own implication in the events surrounding the betrayal, the denial and the crucifixion of Christ.

Odd?  A bit of a downer? It has been one of the darker sides of Christian history that we wonder aloud whose fault it was that Christ was betrayed, denied, rejected and crucified.  We divide up characters into friends and enemies - distribute white hats and black hats.  It was the Romans, it was the High Priest, it was the Jews, it was Judas.  Those whose misfortune it has been, across the years, to be at odds with an ascendent Church, a Christian prince or at odds with whichever faction of the Church was doing the choosing found themselves cast in the role of those deserving punishment from below and from above.

It has provoked, historically, violence by Protestants against Catholics, by Catholics against Protestants, by Christian rulers and ordinary Christian townsmen against Jews, by Crusaders against Muslims - the list goes on....  Who today would we cast into the role of Christ's enemy?

The Gospel writers are at pains to express to us how Jesus was essentially alone at the time of his crucifixion.  His mother and St John are present but the rest of his coterie are soldiers and thieves.  The Galilean Springtime is over.  The happy crowds which accompanied him through the gates of Jerusalem have scattered.  Judas has betrayed him, Peter has denied him.  The other disciples are laying low.  The Gospel writers, in the power of the Holy Spirit, look across the ages at us to let us know that it is human nature which conspired against God's work and effected these events.  The story continues to be the story of what God has himself done on behalf of a guilty humanity.  It is not the story of a few who were discovered, in the end, to be virtuous.

And so we take our parts.  We are that disciple who betrayed his master and snuck out into the night.  We are that disciple who denied his Saviour, not once but three times.  We are the crowds who were there one moment and then nowhere to be seen when the fancy struck them.  We are that mid-level Roman bureaucrat who cynically put expediency above right.  It is not them.

There is no them.
It is us.
We are Pilate, Judas and Peter.
We are the crowds.
This Sunday we take our parts.