Isaiah 50:4-7, Philippines 2:6-11, Mark 14:1-15:47
As this Sunday marks the beginning of the Holy Week, let us reflect on the different crowds that our Lord met during these last days of His earthly life. The first crowd that met Jesus was those that came to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feast of Passover. They must have heard about Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher and the miracle worker. Caught up with the disciples’ fervor in their messianic expectation of Jesus, but being spiritually volatile, they were easily affected by the mood of the moment. Though they may not be directly involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, their disappointment in Him was reflected in their indifference to His trial and death.
The next crowd that Jesus met was those who brought with them swords and clubs. They came to arrest Him. We do not clearly know who they were except they were “from the chief priests, the scribes and the elders” (in John’s Gospel, they were soldiers and temple police), but we can be certain that they were on the side of Jesus’ opponents. We can associate this crowd with those who shouted before Pilate for the release of Barabbas and demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. Like the first crowd, they were easily swayed (rf Mk 15:11; Mt 27:20) by outside forces. But unlike them, instead of being apathetic, they rejected Him.
The third crowd that Jesus encountered was those in the streets of Jerusalem when He carried His cross to Calvary. Besides Jesus’ rivals, most of them were onlookers who did not know Jesus or what was happening. They were too occupied with their own affairs like preparing for the Passover. But among this crowd, we can find Simon of Cyrene who took Jesus’ load, Veronica who wiped His face (from tradition) and women who, following Jesus, “mourned and lamented Him”(Lk 23:27). They took pity of Him out of their kind sentiments.
The last crowd was those that were present at Jesus’ cross. Apart from those bystanders, soldiers and Jesus’ adversaries, there were also Mary (Jesus’ mother), Mary Magdalene, Apostle John, Joseph of Arimathea, the centurion and those women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for Him.
Dear friends, in which of the crowds do we see ourselves?
Jesus, a Man, not a Superman
Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau
Mark presents a Jesus who does not rebel against the events that he cannot impede, almost passively accepting what is happening to him and that, in the end, he concludes: “But let the Scriptures be fulfilled” (Mk 14:49).
All evangelists indicate that, after an initial enthusiastic reception, the crowds gradually broke away from Jesus who in the end was left alone with the twelve. These, in turn, in the moment of decisive choice, fled. None but Mark, however, puts emphasis on the loneliness of Christ during Passion. Reading the other gospels, there is always someone who is on the side of Jesus or takes position in his favor: an angel in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43), a disciple or Pilate’s wife in the process (Jn 18:15; Mt 27:19), a great crowd and a group of women on the way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31); his mother, the favorite disciple, some friends, the good thief (Jn 19:25; Lk 23:40).
In Mark, there’s just no one. Jesus is betrayed by the crowd that prefers Barabbas. He is mocked, beaten and humiliated by soldiers; is insulted by passers-by and the leaders of the people present at the moment of his crucifixion. Darkness was around him. Only at the end, after his death has been told, it was noted: “There were also some women watching from a distance” (Mk 15:40-41).
Completely alone, Jesus experienced the anguish of one who, being certainly committed to the just cause, feels defeated. His cry, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me” (Mk 15:34) seems outrageous, but expresses his inner drama. At the time of his death, he had the experience of impotence, of failure in the fight against injustice, falsehood, oppression exerted by religious and political power. He was no superman, he was just a man in his agony!
One who commits himself to live coherently his faith—it is the message of Mark to the Christians of his community—must take into account that, at the crucial moment, he will be left alone. He will be betrayed by his friends and refused by his own family, feeling oneself abandoned by God and wondering if it was worth to suffer so much to find oneself defeated. In these moments he will launch his cry to the Father, but, to avoid falling into the abyss of despair, he will cry out with Jesus. Only then he will receive an answer to his anguished questions.