- Published: 15 April 2020
For a minute or three, I invite us to consider the passion story. We will tell the whole story as we walk through Holy Week but for now, I invite you to consider one little snippet. The snippet is the moment when Pilate washes his hands. Pilate was the Roman ruler who oversaw the unjust trial of Jesus. In the story, Pilate personally questions Jesus and after the interrogation, on more than one occasion, Pilate publicly concludes that Jesus had done nothing wrong and that Jesus is innocent.
In spite of that finding, those jealous of Jesus, those who felt their own influence and power threatened, they insisted that Jesus be crucified. Pilate tried a legal manoeuver to release Jesus, but that too was thwarted. Finding himself in a hard place, Pilate gave in, he capitulated, he chose to cooperate with the agents of death. Symbolically, he cooperated by washing his hands in an effort to deny responsibility.
However, the effort to free himself of responsibility through hand washing was futile, the effort reflecting neither the reality nor a genuine pursuit of truthfulness.
We understand, most especially in this season of COVID-19, that hand washing awakens responsibility. We wash our hands, not only to protect our own health but the health of others. Pilate’s hand-washing failed to recognize and understand that we are an inter-connected world and people. Inter-connectedness leaves all of us responsible for the earth’s care and one another’s care; whereas Pilate washed his hands only out of self-interest. We wash our hands in order to have a global-interest and see the big picture. Pilate washed his hands as a symbol of giving-in when the going got tough, whereas, we wash our hands as a constant reminder to be resolved in these difficult days.
So as we consider the Holy Week story, notice the irony that when Pilate tried to wash his hands to absolve himself of responsibility, he actually brought attention to his responsibility as one inter-connected in this world.
We are about to have a most unusual Holy Week and Easter. This season of COVID-19 invites us to hear and experience this Holy week in a deepening way, and may this deepening way heighten our appreciation of our inter-connected responsibility, a responsibility that begins with nurturing our own spirits and mental health, a responsibility to keep our community and our world healthy, and our responsibility to be a source of life to others in the particular ways we are called to be in this time, whether our work is essential or we do the essential task of staying home.
While there is a lot of negative in the passion story, there is no denying that, our Holy Week story is also a story of courage and resilience and life-giving moments.
Hear the courage and resilience has we listen to the story of the flawed yet faithful disciples who make mistakes, but ultimately survived as they sought safety in their own homes, survived to enter into the world with a renewed strength and faith and learnings and insight.
Hear the courage and resilience as we listen to the story of a foreigner stranger, Simon of Cyrene, who will share the burden, and who reminds us that the story goes beyond our own borders.
Hear the courage and resilience as we listen to the story of transformative insights by three individuals, a criminal, a soldier, and a religious leader, who in their own ways challenge conspiratorial injustice
Hear the courage and resilience as we listen to the story of women who remain present, who bear witness, who become spokespersons of truth, that truth Pilate tried to wash away but couldn’t.
Holy weeks takes us to the holiest of places. Holy week captures the deep symbolism of washing hands. Holy week helps us sing for our lives. Holy week is a song of lament and a song of possibility. Holy week is both dirge and dance.
These are difficult days, but days when we sing for our lives. In this Holy Week, may we be resolved to keep singing, singing an eternal and endless song, a song that rises above dying comforts, a song we cannot keep from singing.