RCL Year B, Proper 29 (Alternate Readings)
Daniel 7:9-10 and 13-14, Psalm 93, Revelation 1:4b-8, Saint John 18:33-37
Last Sunday, while laying a foundation to address the Gospel, I said that “Jesus has finished his teaching, healing, and pastoral ministry. He has triumphally entered Jerusalem for his final confrontation with the pharisees, sadducees, and the scribes. He plans providentially to lose the confrontation and voluntarily accepts the unjust punishment of crucifixion for trumped up crimes and blasphemies.” Today’s Gospel is the crucial event as Jesus loses quite intentionally that confrontation.
The Jews have turned Jesus over to Pilate as his acquiesce is necessary for them to crucify Jesus. In the trial before Pilate, we see Jesus making no claim and taking no position that would put him at odds with the Romans. His kingship belongs to another world; he competes not and threatens not the Roman authority. And so, Pilate does as the Jews wish. He returns Jesus to them for crucifixion, which is exactly what Jesus wants him to do. To fulfill the will of his Father and to accomplish the purpose of his ministry, he must be crucified in order to be raised from the dead and to conquer death.
As events swirl around him, Jesus calmly lets the events swirl. While doing nothing, Jesus has everything under control. He could bring about any outcome he desired. And he does secure the outcome he wants.
While doing nothing, Jesus is doing everything. He is opening the door of eternal life to all who put their trust in him. He is receiving the punishment of the sins of all humanity. He is offering himself to satisfy justice so that he and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit may be true to their divine nature comprised of perfect mercy and perfect justice. He takes on himself the immediate pain and turmoil in order to offer richer life to sinners.
By accomplishing all these things, Jesus offers us hope. We come to the last Sunday of the Church Year, and Jesus’ ministry is to give us hope that amid the swirl of injustice, false accusations, peremptory authority, pain, and sickness, life is worth living, because he loves us. He loves us to an extent beyond our self-love. He loves us to take us to himself, to claim us as his and his forever.