This is a moment of crises in the city of Jerusalem. The moment Jesus enters there is tumult. First the impromptu military parade of victory, followed by the last supper with disciples and finally Jesus arrest. Like the last few weeks in the United States and Europe, and like the last few months in China and Japan and North & South Korea, the world is in crises mode.
Is it any surprise, then, that every single line is packed with action and meaning in Matthew 27:11-54. There is the trial, the evidence of many different Jesuses and revolutionaries. Then the sentencing and it’s immediate carrying out.
In the midst of all of this, there appears the lone voice of reason. Pilate’s wife, nameless of course, sends a message. I wonder if it was sent by messenger or if the esteemed wife was able to dictate a note. In either case, the message came: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” In the eye of the storm, Pilate’s wife can see that no matter what happens, it is going to be momentous No specifics are given about the dream. She is troubled because she knows Jesus is the Messiah? Because she sees the world falling apart afterward? Or does she simply have a dream of the sky going dark after his death and realizes what this portends?
Then Pilate washed his hands, a text that carries different meaning in the middle of a pandemic. He washes his hands of all of it and steps away from the crowd and lets them decide. Great leadership, this is not. A safe decision for both Pilate’s politics and for his soul, perhaps. But he convinces no one.
Where is the chaos right now, where is the voice of reason?
Perhaps, too, Pilate has the privilege of meeting Jesus and having glimpses of who he is. During the trial, one can hear the pleading note: what do you say Jesus (psst! Defend yourself, please, throw me a bone here Jesus).
But here in Matthew’s text Jesus says nothing.
The lone voice saying anything in his favor, is Pilate’s wife.
Even the bandits, in this story, taunt Jesus. No one understands who he is, and he is mocked as the king.
Is it any wonder that Jesus feels forsaken; because he is.
I believe that Jesus was forsaken, because walking in the world and not being able to feel God, that is what Hell is. It is to feel utterly hopeless and alone, it is the complete absence of love.
How can Jesus be fully human if he doesn’t feel this fully human condition? How can Jesus understand if he doesn’t suffer through the loss of faith, the loss of love, the loss of everything.
Broken and Forsaken, Jesus dies on the cross, and truly enters into hell–a space without God.
What do we do when we have no hope?
What do we do when we feel isolated and forsaken?
I, of course, have no clue how Jesus can be God and be forsaken, or go into Hell, but I do believe that it was essential to salvation and that this is what happened.
But something in Jesus’s cry to God, something in the earthquake and the chaos, leads the centurion (and all those who watched Jesus–the unnamed few, probably the women), say “Truly this man was God’s son”
Let’s wave the palms, in joy or agony. Let us call on God, whether we believe or not and say “Hosanna: Save us.”
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY for over nine years and blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org, where she currently has a lot of prayers written about the pandemic. She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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