Jesus of Nazareth is executed in Jerusalem when the city is filled with pilgrims celebrating the Jewish festival of Passover. In the years following his execution, when friends and family gather for Passover, they find new meaning in the celebration of the feast. Every Passover from now on marks the anniversary of the death of Jesus and is celebrated through the lens of their experience of his life and death. They share their memories of the one they loved so deeply and reflect on the meaning of his life and death in the light of their wisdom traditions. Every element of their Passover story, the ancient story of God’s deliverance of God’s people from slavery, resonates with echoes of the life and death of Jesus who is now present to them in a new way. It is not surprising, then, that these final events of Jesus’ life are probably the first part of the Jesus story to be committed to writing. Neither is it surprising that each of the canonical gospels includes an account of Jesus’ suffering and death and that each approaches the events from its own particular perspective.
There are several unique features in Luke’s account. The most remarkable to my mind is Jesus’ readiness to forgive his executioners even while they continue to mock him. Another is his capacity to go out to others: to ‘turn towards’ the women of Jerusalem, to acknowledge their grief, and to express his own concern for them. In line with his overall intention to demonstrate that Christianity is no threat to the Roman Empire, Luke repeatedly points to the innocence of Jesus. The Lukan Jesus is the rejected prophet who trusts utterly in God and into whose hands he entrusts his spirit, dying with the same sort of dignity that has characterised his life.
It is easy to let our own hurt find expression in criticism or mistreatment of others whom we fail to understand. It is also easy to retaliate in the face of unjust accusation and insult. It takes more courage than most of us can muster to name unjust treatment for what it is, to truly forgive, to retain our peace of mind in such circumstances, and to trust in the power of God to break through the ignorance and fear that engender violence. As we enter into the mysteries of Holy Week, we might pray for the grace to act with the dignity of the Lukan Jesus and so play our part in circumventing the cycles of violence in our own contexts.