We have traveled the Lenten pathway since ashes were smeared on our foreheads, and now we follow Jesus in the drama of his final week. Each Gospel offers its perspective on the events and characters that led to the excruciating death. How grateful we are for extended passion narratives.
Mark wants to make sure we clearly link the festival of Passover with Jesus’ passion. The chief priests and scribes were looking for a way to arrest him, yet the celebration gave them pause, fearing there might be a riot among the people. Mark also recounts the anointing by the unnamed woman in the house of Simon the leper, which Jesus gladly receives even though some at the dinner gripe about the waste. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (14:9). Yet we do not remember her. By contrast, we well know the name of the man who betrayed Jesus.
Matthew offers rich detail of the machinations of Judas Iscariot. He went directly to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him 30 pieces of silver, and “from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him” (26:15-16). Judas remains as a part of the twelve, even sharing the Passover meal and hearing Jesus’ prophecy that one of them would betray him. “Surely not I, Rabbi?” was his reply. Even when he brings the large crowd to arrest Jesus, expecting resistance, Jesus still addresses him as friend (26:50).
Luke gives special attention to Peter’s actions on the night Jesus was seized and taken to the high priests’ house. Peter followed at a distance, and when warming himself at a courtyard fire, a servant-girl recognized him as one who had been with Jesus. Two more figures identified Peter, and each time his denial was more vehement. Peter remembered Jesus’ words, the confirmation of the crowing cock, and he “went out and wept bitterly” (22:62).
John alone places the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the signals that he would be killed loom early in this Gospel. Unique to this portrayal of summative events is the foot washing. Taking the lowliest role, Jesus models the kind of self-giving love that he desires they express to one another. The highly symbolic scene has him laying aside his outer robe much as he will lay down his life. His washing of them connects directly to what they will learn through the cross.
All of the Gospels narrate the conflicted role of Pilate, who alone has the power to condemn Jesus to death. The collusion between Jewish leaders and imperial Rome ensures that the public spectacle of crucifixion will occur. All the Gospels witness the enduring presence of the women as Jesus dies, remaining until he breathes his last breath.
As we move through this week, let’s ask where we find ourselves in the drama of Holy Week. Perhaps we can more faithfully “watch with him” as we journey in his company.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.