Today we once more follow Jesus Christ towards His passion and are witnesses as He is condemned and crucified. We see how He is accused of being a king, a charge that He does not deny. Yet the King who is revealed in the Gospel account is a very different type of king: He is apparently powerless and seemingly unable to save Himself – indeed, the term king is used as a term of mockery.
Yet there is also more going on than meets the eye. After He is unjustly condemned, Jesus continues to turn people’s expectations on their heads. He tells the women not to weep, for the event that is about to take place is not a defeat, but a victory. The whole of creation is involved in what is occurring, with the sun going dark and the curtain of the temple being torn in two. For what is occurring is the very victory of God in the flesh. Saint Athanasius writes,
The Lord over death set out to abolish death. Being Lord, He accomplished His aim. We therefore have passed from death to life. The concept of the Jews and those who think like them held about the Lord was wrong. Things did not turn out at all according to their expectations, because the opposite was true. In fact, ‘He who sits in heaven shall laugh at them: the Lord shall have them in derision.’
By conquering death, Jesus Christ destroys the power of death and turns around the sin of Adam that was corrupting our human nature. In the words of Saint Cyril of Alexandria,
By becoming like us and bearing our sufferings for our sakes, Christ restores human nature to how it was in the beginning. The first man was certainly in the Paradise of delight in the beginning. The absence of suffering and of corruption exalted him. He despised the commandment given to him and fell under a curse, condemnation, and the snare of death by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. By the very same thing, Christ restores him to his original condition. He became the fruit of the tree by enduring the precious Cross for our sakes, that he might destroy death, which by means of the tree [of Adam] had invaded the bodies of humankind.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 23:1-31, 33, 44-56:
At that time, the chief priests, the scribes, and elders of the people brought Jesus before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, “I find no crime in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” — a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock hewn tomb, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.