I know I’ve been a slacker. I’ve had all sorts of pieces I’ve wanted to post. Alas, free time has been elusive.
This is my homily for today’s Good Friday service. The service’s centerpiece is a dramatic reading of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion rendered in John’s gospel. The passion narrative is broken into scenes followed by short reflections. I wrote the following for John 18:1-12:
The soldiers and the police came with weapons to arrest Jesus. Didn’t they know Jesus was not a person who would carry weapons? Why didn’t Judas tell them that Jesus was unarmed and that their weapons were not necessary? Or did he?
By showing up with weapons, the state, the Empire, displayed its power and might. What did they think Jesus would do? What could one man, especially a man who taught people to eschew the traditional trappings of power for servanthood, do in the face of overwhelming odds?
But that was the Empire wasn’t it? The Empire readily flexed its muscles to prove its might regardless of its opposition. Rome was good at that. Rome enforced peace through weapons, through crucifixes, through instruments of destruction and didn’t hesitate to use them. They protected the Empire’s values. They instilled an underlying fear among the populace. It was that fear that kept the peace.
Jesus’ message subverted and undermined that peace. The peace Jesus preached and taught was based upon profound, radical, inclusive love. The authorities had to stop that message because it would de-legitimize the Empire’s organizing principle where value was measured by wealth and power. They could not let themselves be exposed because organizing society around wealth and power was a fiction. It could not be sustained because it required a staggering and ever increasing supply of material resources to maintain it. Let weapons of destruction preserve and protect wealth and power. Distract the people through shows of force, such as the parade that accompanied Pilate into Jerusalem earlier in the week. Keep people from asking questions and when the challenges get too close to the truth, quash it however possible with those instruments of destruction.
Jesus’ message of a world based not upon material resources but based upon love promised to create a world that would be sustainable. Love is inexhaustible because love comes from God. Love not fear will transform the world. Fear comes from scarcity. Love comes from abundance.
Jesus spoke truth to power. His entry into Jerusalem earlier that week showed the power of that truth. He gave people without wealth and power hope. He promised them their freedom from oppression. He promised that the way of Caesar would fall and then give rise to the way of God. He promised that the world in which they lived in that moment would be no more. It would be a world where all would have their daily bread. It would be a world where the last would be first and the rich would be sent away empty. It would be a world where justice rooted in love, not the whims of the emperor, would prevail and that all will have peace, shalom, the wholeness of life.
Rome had plenty of evidence on Jesus. He was arrested because he threatened Caesar’s way. The authorities had to protect the empire because their livelihoods, their existences depended upon it. They could not let him continue.
When we look at our nation today with its vast chasm between those at the top of the economic ladder and those at the bottom… when we see a nation that spends more on weapons of destruction than the economic dignity of its people… when we see a nation organized around the values of wealth and power … when we see a nation that extends its military presence around the globe … aren’t we the empire today?
Is there enough evidence for the authorities to arrest you?