The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

February 19, 2015 § 1 Comment

Then thStation 1 (2)e assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”  Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  He answered, “You say so.”  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”  But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” Luke 23:1-5

Part of the difficulty of this Station is that I already know the answer on the other side of Lent. Personally I can breeze through this narrative, assigning the characters into either the “good guys” or “bad guys” camps. The actions of Pilate and the crowd seem to easily be in the wrong camp, while Jesus’s innocence shines through to be in the right camp. As I view Simon’s depiction of the First Station – Jesus is Condemned to Death, my breezy interpretation is interrupted and I am seeing important nuances, just as Simon has layered light upon light while blurring the shadows so that we have an image of condemnation where we can feel that dead, blurred silence under the light of judgment.

As I look anew on the characters in the Luke’s narrative, I am reminded of the Bob Dylan song, “With God on Our Side”. The lyrics are here and video is below:

The song suggests that everyone seems to think that God is on our side, the right side, of course, and that whoever we are fighting clearly does not have God on their side. The song further suggests that this belief of God on our side justifies whatever violence we do to that other side:

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side

I’ve learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

In having heard this Scripture passage so many times, I did not stop to fully consider the justifying motivations of these other players. Perhaps Pilate may have thought that while sacrificing one person’s innocence was not desirable, it was a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of keeping order. Perhaps the chief priests and people were just too afraid that Jesus was just too much of a trouble maker who would bring greater harm to their already suffering group under Roman rule. Did they think too that God was on their side, or, of not God, than some kind of righteousness?

Underneath this narrative, I am seeing fear and cynicism at work. Pilate worries about condemning a man he sees as innocent but fears the crowd more. The chief priests and the crowd fear that Jesus is stirring up trouble for them, encouraging law breaking (not paying taxes and saying he is the king) and being blasphemous (saying he is the Messiah). And while I can easily see that this is  fear based and cynical, I can also easily see where I may be tempted to give into these fears, too. Indeed, this Station reminds me to ask, “Who am I condemning out of my fear while justifying it as ‘right’, as maybe having God on my side?”

Please pray with me:

Gracious God, in this Lenten season may we have the courage to be vulnerable enough to let go of our fears of never enough and reach out in solidarity both toward those whom we exclude and also toward our authentic selves whom we can alienate, so that we may richly build each other up for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.

– Nicole Hanley

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