He deliberately set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) knowing full well what would happen there. He entered the city riding a donkey (Mark 11:1-11), a useless animal for war.
He made ‘no resistance’ to those who struck him (Isaiah 50:5) and said to those who were his closest friends and colleagues in his mission, ‘you will all lose faith’ (Mark 14:27) and indeed they did. ‘They all deserted him and ran away’ (Mark 14:50).
There is always a danger that we will keep the passion at a distance, where we can handle it more easily.
We can say it is a story of something that happened a long time ago about the God who loves us and sent his Son into the world to live and die for us, and somehow by doing this he has saved us and taken away our sins. Now let’s go back to our normal life and carry on as usual.
But is it possible we could allow the passion to come closer to us? ‘God’s weakness,’ St Paul says, ‘is stronger than human strength’ (I Cor 1: 25). In Mark’s account of the passion Jesus is utterly weak at one stage. He ‘felt terror and anguish’ (14:34).
How many of our contemporaries feel this same terror today when they face the force of the state against them? Can we share something of this terror with them?
But in the last part there is a sense of victory. The veil of the temple was torn ‘from top to bottom’ (15:38) signifying the end of the old. The centurion, a pagan, cries out ‘this man was Son of God’ (15:39).Joseph of Arimathea finds within himself the courage to go to Pilate to ask for the body so that he can bury it. The cries around the donkey’s ears of ‘Hosanna! Blessings on the coming kingdom!’ were no so far from the mark!
Nelson Mandela is a man who all his life has given a witness of strength – but not force. He showed an inner strength in his long years in prison and in his brief years as president.
The story about his trying to promote reconciliation with the Afrikaners, for example by cheering on the Springboks, shows that he preferred persuasion to force. He is leaving us an extraordinary heritage of weakness that turns out to be strength.Post published in: Opinions & Analysis