We have just heard the Passion of Our Lord according to Mark. There is a tremendous amount at stake in this story. It is every bit as much about life and death as any battle or extreme natural disaster. It is certainly a case of extreme conditions. And as happens in times of life and death consequences, all the niceties of social behavior are stripped away and people’s true character is revealed. Under such pressure people’s true nature is brought to the surface and exposed. So we see the chief priests with their plotting and conniving and grasping at power; we observe Pilate fearful and suspicious, pushed into a corner; Judas is revealed as greedy and a traitor; Peter so full of braggadocio and yet is revealed as a denier and a coward; the other disciples all turn out to be just fair weather friends; the women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome, and others, who in the face of the ghastly horror of crucifixion hang in there, looking on from a distance, but still faithful; and Joseph of Arimathea, a caring man, who “courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” Many different reactions to this make or break situation. No room for fudging, hedging bets, finessing the issue, trying to please all sides. In this story of the Passion you have to put up, you have to reveal your cards.
So, where do we see ourselves? In the retelling the Passion we are there too. Am I with the crowd calling for blood? Or am I with the Roman soldiers bored and indifferent, just another messy job? Perhaps I am with the disciples, afraid and frightened, trying to hide? Or with the women, sorrowful and anxious?….
And then of course there is Jesus. His character is revealed in the story too. Knowing that the trial before the high priest, and later before Pilate, is just a kangaroo-court with a foregone conclusion, Jesus refuses to participate in the spectacle, and largely remains silent. He does not play games.
Jesus rather reveals His character by his actions, by how he accepts and even embraces His death, in total trust of the Father’s care for him. And so, “When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God.’”
In the manner of His suffering and death Jesus reveals His true self. “Truly this man was the Son of God.”