When I read the synoptic gospel accounts *of Jesus arrest and trial, I come away with a sense of confusion, anguish, and disorder. It’s nearly chaotic.
It was a politically turbulent time, and Passover in Jerusalem was particularly so. The political and religious powers were on edge and worried about unrest in the city. After his arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus is shuffled back and forth between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod. Whose responsibility is he? How politically dangerous is it to try him? How dangerous to set him free? The sense of hurry. The rush to find witnesses- honest or not.The mix of secret middle of the night and public daytime meetings. It seems like the authorities know the outcome they want, but are not sure how, exactly, to accomplish it. How do you silence a troublesome preacher?
In the midst of the chaos and unrest, in the midst of the political maneuvering and backroom plotting, in the midst of all that happened, God was present. Although perhaps not in the ways we might expect.
Consider Jesus’ anguish in the Gethsemane. Sometimes Christians feel that we shouldn’t have “negative” emotions. We can fall into a trap of thinking that somehow, because of our faith we should not feel afraid, or worried, of anxious. Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane shows us that’s not true. There are situations in life where being afraid, anxious and grieving is appropriate. Our response shouldn’t be a denial of reality and honest and real emotions. Our response, as Jesus shows us, is honest, truthful prayer. Jesus prays for a different outcome, but he isn’t spared what the future holds. He is given the ability to see it through, to finish the work he was given.
This is a day when we recognize that life can be hard and the world can be a cruel place, no matter who we are. The unthinkable happens in the world of the Bible and in our current world. Life falls apart. People get sick. Jobs are lost. Messiah’s die.
Life can be hard and pretending otherwise doesn’t change reality. But, God is with Jesus through the anguish in the garden. God is with Jesus through the trials, through the abuse. Through it all.
Yes, Jesus cries out from the cross. In Matthew and Mark, he says the first words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Many of us know all to well the despair of wondering where God is. We know the experience of forsakenness. There is no human experience that Jesus does not understand.
We know that God did not forsake Jesus. We know Easter happens. But between now and then, let us not rush through these days of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Let us pray for those among us who are desperate, who are suffering, who feel lost and forsaken. Let us pray that they receive the consolation of Jesus, strength for the future and the sustaining and saving presence of God.
* The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. “Synoptic” is a word that comes from the two Greek words. “Syn” meaning together or with. “Optic” meaning eye. Together they mean something like taking a common view. The synoptic gospels have a shared or common view or a shared way of telling the story- in spite of also having things that are particular to each gospel. John’s gospel, not a synoptic, has a different tone or feeling and has a noticeably different perspective.