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Matthew 27:11-54

By Elizabeth Garrett

I’m always fascinated by the Palm Sunday reading. This is the reading that, for me, puts very human faces and emotions on events that might otherwise be hard to relate to.

With this reading, we’re put in the place of the angry mob, shouting “crucify him!” I wonder, how many of the crowd gathered around outside Pilate’s gates even knew what was going on. How many of them just followed others, just for the sake of following and yelling? We see this again with the taunts of the guards, the taunts of the crowd at the execution. We get someone isolated and humiliated and we like to keep pushing, keep taunting. We want to humiliate him even more. Why are we like this?

This reading also puts a very human face on Pilate. Here he is, just doing his job. He personally knows that this man hasn’t broken any laws. He tries so hard to just follow the rules, release Jesus, and be done with it and go home to his worried wife. But Pilate is also a man who sees which way the wind is blowing. He knows the crowd is riled up. He knows if he releases Jesus he’s going to have a full-blown riot to deal with. So he gives the people what they want – kill one man and spare the city from an angry mob. Who’s to say in his position we wouldn’t do the same?

And of course we have Jesus. In earlier readings we see his determination. We seem him pray. We see him steel himself against what he knows is coming. But in the end, though he tries to deal with the pain, with the indignity, with the knowledge that he is dying, he breaks. He cries. He wails to God of his despair. In the end, Jesus is just a man pushed beyond his breaking point, crying out for his father. In the end, he is just like us.