Holy Monday, April 15
The Plot to Kill Jesus
“Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.”
In today’s text we find the Scribes and Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus. Notice verse 2. It reads, “because they were afraid of the people.” But what were they really afraid of? Earlier in the gospel of Luke, its author writes of a Jesus overturning tables in the Temple and dismantling the economic oppression that the religious leaders had inflicted on poor worshippers for far too long. Later, we find Jesus spending a substantial part of his ministry critiquing the self-serving, self-righteous practices of the leaders of the political and religious Empires. And just prior to this episode, we find Jesus healing and restoring the very people that the systems of his day marginalized and oppressed. In turn these people began to faithfully follow Jesus and bring power to the Movement. Ultimately, the Pharisees and the Scribes weren’t “scared” of the people. Rather, they were scared of losing their power and their privilege over them. They used rhetoric of fear and hate in an attempt to deter the faithful from following Jesus. When this didn’t work they resorted to their next plan, “get rid of him and get rid of him fast.”
Nonetheless, we can’t forget about Judas. Where does he fit into all of this? I want to suggest that quite possibly Judas falls prey to the fear and hate spewed from the Empire’s mouth about this “bad hombre” named Jesus. Subsequently Judas, operating out of an irrational fear, ends up giving in to this dangerous rhetoric of those in power, giving up on Jesus, and handing him over into enemy hands.
Just as in first century Palestine, much of the political and religious rhetoric today is filled with hate and fear against all that the Empire deems a “threat” to its power and control. And far too many who have fallen prey. Like Judas, an irrational sense of fear that “they’re out to get us,” has led certain people to give in and actually believe that their “power” has indeed been jeopardized by those the Empire has deemed ‘other.’
However, as followers of the Jesus Movement we have been called to something different. Amidst the cacophony of hate and fear-filled voices, during this Lenten season we have the perfect opportunity to reflect [and even repent] on the ways in which we engage this rhetoric of Empire and its minions. Even more importantly, it’s an opportunity to ensure that we are guarding our hearts and minds from it as not to end up in the same predicament as Judas. Lent provides us a time in which we can commit or re-commit to wholeheartedly follow and practice Jesus’ central message; love, equity, and justice for all. We do this by resisting the hate and fear of the ‘other’ and always standing on the side of love. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”
Prayer: God, help us to always guard our hearts and minds from the irrational fear and hate provoked by Empire. As we journey with Jesus through this Lenten season and beyond, may we be ever more committed to the ways of justice, equity, and love for all of creation. And so, may it be. Amen and Ashe.