So we have arrived at the Thursday before the Friday before the Sunday that changed the world. One of this morning’s readings in the prayer-book I use was the scene where Jesus is sentenced to death in the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Luke. It is, of course, a sad scene. The light of the world is handed over to the greedy and murderous hands of an angry mob. The Son of God gives himself away to those who don’t know what they are doing.
When I read this familiar scene this morning, I was struck by the behaviour of Pilate, in particular. Three times, it says, Pilate appealed to the crowd. What evil has this man done? He does not deserve death. Don’t do this! But the crowd was angry as crowds so frequently are. And they were baying for blood. Three times, Pilate limply and theatrically tried to set God free. But then, Pilate could have asked them a hundred times, and the result wouldn’t have changed. Three times is not enough for an angry crowd.
I was also struck by three awful words at the end of this scene:
… their voices prevailed.
How often is this tragically true about the angry voices, the voices that need their blood, the voices that cannot be reasoned with, that only get louder and louder and angrier and angrier? How often is it precisely these voices that prevail, while the other voices, the voices that are innocent, the voices that operate far from the security of the howling righteous crowds, the voices that are too quiet to be heard, the voices that are all too easy to ignore, suffer and bleed and die? But, yes, their voices prevailed. Over reason. Over justice. Over goodness and truth. Over Herod and Pilate. Their voices prevailed. And God was sent to die.
Three words, three times. So many threes in this story, and the stories on either side of it…
Three times, “I don’t know the man!”
Three crosses on a godforsaken hill.
Three times, “Peter do you love me?” Three times, “Feed my sheep.”
Three days until the stone is rolled away.
Three days until the question that has echoed through the ages: Why do you look for the living among the dead?