Green Tau Reflection

Good Friday 2022

Ignorant, blinkered or obtuse?

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ 23 Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ John chapter 19

I studied this passage with my Lent group. Jesus rightly tells the high priest, and those in authority with him, that he has spoken openly and that if anyone had wanted to know what he was teaching, they would only have to pay attention. It’s clear from the gospel that both Jesus’s, and, before him, John the Baptist’s, activities have been followed by those in authority. The puzzling question is why is it that those in authority, those who have lived and worked – and worshipped – within the religious establishment, do not realise who Jesus is and do not understand the message of his teaching? 

  • Are they ignorant? In terms of facts, no they cannot be ignorant. Jesus has been teaching openly, and they themselves have been following him. 
  • Are they ignorant in terms of understanding? Do they simply not understand what the facts mean? Do they simply not understand that Jesus is ‘of God’, as a son to a father, and that what he teaches comes straight from God?
  • Are they blinkered? Are they so sure that God cannot inhabit human form, that their minds and eyes are closed to any such possibility? There are certainly many examples of people and cultures that blinkered. In the 19th century explorers who came across the bronze sculptures of Benin, could not imagine that an African could have created such art works and therefore they must have been the work of a lost civilisation. At the same time many women who wished their writing to be accepted, has to assume a male pseudonym.
  • Are they so enmeshed in a culture and system – largely of their own making – that they cannot see or imagine any different way of doing things? Does this culture and system so embrace every part of their life, their past and their future, that there is no room for any alternative?
  • Are they self righteous? Are they so sure that they are right, that their understanding of the world and their interpretation of what is happening is right, that they cannot envisage an alternative view point?
  • Are they obtuse? Do they just not want to hear or believe or countenance anything that involves change?

When Jesus is then brought before Pilate, it seems as if Pilate is at least willing to explore what it is that Jesus represents, what it is that he is about. Pilate does at least lift the edge of the curtain so as to speak, to see what might be happening. Then the opportunity becomes engulfed in matters that Pilate finds more pressing. The discussion is foreclosed. 

The story of Good Friday tells us whilst the obstinacy, the short sightedness and narrow mindedness of those in authority led directly to Jesus’s execution, God’s capacity for salvation exceeded everyone’s dreams. 

God’s kingdom, God’s rule, is present here and now on earth for those who wish to be part of it, yet complete salvation is still a work in progress, and humanity faces many trials and ills. One of the most pressing is the climate crisis. With only a handful of years grace remaining before catastrophes overwhelm us, we sense we have a last chance to transform the ways in which we live so as to truly care for one another and the whole of creation. The message seems so clear. The message has been so oft repeated. The route maps to safety so clearly plotted. How is it then that those in authority do not understand, do not respond, do not take action? How can they be so obstinate, so obtuse, so short sighted? 

Must we brace ourselves for further tragedy? Is our only consolation that Christ will be with us? Let us pray and act for change. Let us strive for conversion. 

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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