Sunday 28 March 2021

Palm Sunday: Clean hands are of the conscience

Common service in the church

Probably something I have not taken due notice of before, on Sunday mornings, I will usually wake up to a live church service on BBC Radio 4, the ones from the Church of England, I am more attuned to. The time did Spring Forward to British Summer Time, though it was more like British Raining Time, this morning.

However, today, Palm Sunday, I recall that when the readings came up in church, it was like a déjà vu moment, I very remembered I had heard it before, recently too. At church, with the new normal of no congregational singing, a cantor doing most of the musical stuff in front of the congregation or in the choir, much of what we do is sitting down apart during the greeting and certain congregational recitations.

The gospel in song

The children without a Sunday School with preoccupied and distracted by toys, puzzles, or their colouring books. The gospel was first read to announce the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on the ass of a colt the second gospel was of the Passion, the first 54 verses of 66, of the 27th chapter in the Gospel according to St Matthew, sung by the cantor and a laudable feat at the best of times. [Bible Gateway: Matthew 27:1-54 (NRSVA)]

As I have been listening to books on Audible rather than reading them on Kindle, there was a sense of how the words we heard seems to take on life as you read the words being sung to our hearing. I could not help but see the level of human wickedness that greeted the desire for the chief priests of that day to get rid of Jesus Christ.

A window on religious wickedness

When Judas Iscariot realised what his betrayal of Jesus Christ would lead to, he went to return the 30 pieces of silver the chief priests and elders gave him for his dastardly deed and they indifferently said, “What is that to us?”, on picking up the money he threw down in the temple, they deliberated amongst themselves agreeing it was “the price of blood”, bought a piece of land with it, not for anything but the burial of strangers to whom they will have no duty, obligation, or responsibility and called it the field of blood.

They agitated the crowd to prefer a murderer and thief over Jesus Christ and even Pontius Pilate when he made to wash his hands off the matter, recognised that they were against Jesus out of envy. Just the thought that someone bringing succour, healing and peace to their people making them somewhat irrelevant as they could never rise to minister to those needs was their all-consuming passion to destroy Jesus, he had to be killed.

Culpable in every way

I could not entirely absolve Pontius Pilate, his wife warned him not to have anything to do with Jesus, he had the power and authority to set Jesus free, much as whatever the decision he took would determine the fate of Jesus Christ in that place.

Out of fear for his position and hoping to avoid an insurrection, all acts of self-preservation of status and person, he delivered Jesus to them and the ritual of crucifixion started with scourging and mockery, the act of capital punishment will also be carried out by those under his command, just as he decided to place a notice at the head of the cross declaring Jesus, the kind of the Jews.

It all made for sombre reflection; the Holy Week has begun. In these pandemic times, as we sanitise our hands to prevent disease and contamination, Pontius Pilate would never have been able to wash his hands clean of the matter that underpins the force of Christianity, the cross and the consequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. Clean hands are first of the conscience and the decisions we make long before symbolically washing them in a bowl of water would mean anything.

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