Today is Good Friday, when Christians remember the betrayal, trial, and unjust execution of Christ. I reread the accounts of the trial this morning and wanted to share some details I had not remembered or perhaps even noticed before.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the story—the events begin in the Garden of Gethsemane, in Jerusalem. Jesus knows His death is imminent. He prays for strength in the Garden, while His disciples fall asleep. That same night, His absent disciple Judas reappears with a group of armed men and turns Him over to them. Jesus is led away to be tried before the religious elite, Herod the Jewish tetrarch, and finally Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea. The religious leaders want His blood but they have no legal authority to execute someone, so they bring Jesus to the Romans with false accusations, shifting the focus of their accusations from blasphemy, which is irrelevant to the Romans, to political rebellion. After many misgivings, Pilate eventually bends to the will of the mob and agrees to crucify Jesus—death by slow torture and humiliation by public nakedness. Infamously, Pilate ends the trial by washing his hands, in a symbol to claim his own innocence.
When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”
How many of us turn to sleep when we are sad? Healthy amounts of sleep are necessary, but it can become a kind of drug when you are depressed. Jesus suggests, by example and admonition, that it is better to stay alert and prayerful when you feel distressed, rather than turn to sleep as an escape from reality.
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Physical self-discipline is important, because body and mind are linked. In human logic, it might have made sense for Jesus to try to sleep that night, knowing all that would take place in the morning and tax His strength. Instead, He kept Himself awake and in prayer, and would not be taken by His captors suddenly.
Now when He said to [the officers and troops], “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Jesus was not overpowered at any time. He was capable of defending himself with supernatural power or, had He fully armed His followers, with physical power. Instead, He went to His death willingly and without resistance.
And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.
We do not know for sure who this “other disciple” is—perhaps John himself. This is the very first time I realized that there was a second disciple, apart from Peter, who witnessed the trial. In the next two verses, the disciple’s presence is elaborated on:
But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”
This disciple then, assumed Peter would also identify himself. Peter ends up denying both Jesus and this disciple when he claims he is not one of Christ’s followers.
For [Pilate] knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
Not only did Pilate know, in his heart, that Jesus was innocent, but he was fully aware of the motive for this mob’s call for death. He did something he knew was wrong, by his own standards of justice and ethics, for the sake of politics and keeping the peace.
Christ vs. the World
The trial of Jesus is a chilling illustration of perfect goodness facing its exact opposite. Christ experienced a complete lack of justice or mercy from one of the greatest empires that ever existed. He was abandoned by His friend who claimed to love Him and had most fervently promised never to leave His side. This, sadly, is what we can expect from a world that is enslaved by appearances, wealth, self-preservation, and everything that motivates one individual to betray another, or a collective to go back on its principles.
In His suffering, Christ showed us the messed-up state of the human condition that His death and resurrection save us from.
Christ’s Prayer for Believers
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.