Saturday 25 April 2020 – What is your verdict?

At the end of many a busy day you finally complete as many of the tasks in your ‘in-tray’ as is possible and then sit down with a well-earned time for relaxation as you stop to reflect on the day and what you might have achieved, or not have achieved, as the case may be. Or maybe on the threshold of the weekend, if the week day and weekend distinction still holds under lock down, you stop to consider the week that is past.

Sometimes we don’t want to think for too long because we are frustrated that so little has been achieved and we would rather not dwell on that fact. However, for most of us if we are not too hard on ourselves there are tasks that have been completed and a fair assessment would be that they have been reasonably successful.  

 As I have mentioned on other occasions, the perception of Holy week two thousand years ago by the followers of Jesus between Palm Sunday and Easter Saturday was very different to the view of Christians today.

We look backwards knowing what happened on Easter Sunday, but from their perspective it was a week that began amazingly well with Jesus getting the recognition He deserved in Jerusalem, but going downhill steadily as the week progressed.  Before the end of Good Friday, Jesus had died.

How did those present see Jesus in the light of the events of that day? Let us look very briefly at Mark’s short account of late Friday afternoon that day in Jerusalem: 

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ 40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed Him and cared for His needs. Many other women who had come up with Him to Jerusalem were also there. (Mark 15:37-41) 

It had been a hectic day with the old city of Jerusalem jam-packed with vast crowds of people, but the noise has greatly diminished as those present have mostly gone back to their homes or the place where they were camping during the Passover Festival. Yet on the hillside outside the city wall Mark highlights the presence of one man and a group of women

The women Those named were regular supporters of Jesus who were loyal and committed through good times and bad. They were there when others had gone missing. There are many times for us too when we stand alongside someone going through hard times.  We cannot solve their problem or fix their crisis. But our presence shows that we care. We want to find words but sometimes there are no words that are adequate.

Undoubtedly there were plenty of deep thoughts to accompany their silence. Are you someone who like them can be counted on to be loyal to the end? It takes real courage and perseverance to do that in tough times then and now. But with the help of the Holy Spirit we too can stand firm when the going gets tough. In what situation today is God asking you to keep going and not give up? 

The centurion This was the toughest individual present that day. He had probably killed or overseen the execution of more individuals than he cared to recall. For him it was another shift at work with three men for him and his team of soldiers to crucify that day. Job done! Or was it?  What did he say about the man on the central cross? And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how He died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ 

I wonder how he slept that night after such an observation? Killing terrorists and other undesirables would have been a routine activity for him, but this was different. As he reflected on how Jesus died something changed within him. Have you stopped to consider how Jesus behaved on the cross – what is your verdict? I hope and pray that you come to the same conclusions as the centurion, and then take a further step and put your faith in God through Jesus and commit your life to follow Him.

Our song for reflection today is an older Easter hymn of Irish hymn-writer Thomas Kelly,   ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns’ 

Brian Talbot