I remember vividly when Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ came out. The violence and the blood and the gore was almost overwhelming for me. I really didn’t feel that I needed to see that, although since it came out during Lent it did serve the purpose of setting up one of my sermons. Chapter 27 contains all of the scenes from that movie that were the most disturbing and the most gruesome. You have a Pilate who is very conflicted especially with his wife who is telling him to let Jesus go. Keep in mind that people back then were very wary of the gods coming back in human form so his question: “Are you King of the Jews” is more a question related to are you one of us or are you one of the gods come to rule over us? Because if you are one of the gods I’m not dealing with you. Certainly his wife thought Jesus was one of the gods.
The dramatic washing of his hands and the response from “the people as a whole” that Jesus’ blood would be on them and their children has been used for centuries to point the finger at the people of Israel as “Christ killers”. This phrase has been seen as perpetrating an anti-semitic sentiment that was carried out fully by the Nazis and others in history both before and after WWII. As we mentioned last chapter, who was it that betrayed Jesus? It wasn’t just the mob, it wasn’t just Pilate, it wasn’t just the disciples, it was all of us. Lent is a time that we remember the suffering of Jesus and our complicity, even our daily participation, in his betrayal. The solution is not Judas’ action, but rather what Joseph of Arimathea and the women do at the end. They do not abandon Jesus, even in death, even when things seem completely without hope, but rather stay by his side and tend to the details.
Once again Caravaggio depicts a scene from the Bible that is so alarming that you almost feel as if you are there. You find Joseph and the women taking Christ down and placing him in the tomb. It seem as if they are standing on a cliff and lowering Jesus into an abyss.
A trip to the Garden tomb is a must for those who visit Israel. It is so dramatically different from the Church of the Sepulcher where the traditional sight of Jesus’ burial is thought to be. Normally we will have communion together at the Garden tomb and it is powerful to see the opening of the tomb, the face of the skull on Golgotha, and know that this just could be the place where Jesus was laid in the tomb.
That’s probably enough pictures for today, but it truly is a powerful experience to be able to be there and think…this could be the place.