I once asked a question to a young boy who was quite set on exacting some kind of revenge on his friend who had wronged him. “Which takes more power or strength to do, which is greater in your eyes; do to him what he has done to you or worse, or, allow yourself to be wronged, allow yourself to be mocked, allow yourself to be seen as the fool, and be wholly concerned with forgetting self and still helping your undeserving friend because he doesn’t know how bad what he has just done to you is?” I asked. His hand pulled back the fringe of his hair as he realised how right and how difficult what I had just proposed was. But nevertheless, through an uncertain grin, as though he had just accepted to take on the sin of the world himself, he uttered, “You’re right. That’s what Jesus would do.”
It wasn’t a novel teaching when Jesus came and did that before our very eyes. The prophet Isaiah had done that 600 years before Jesus even came to us as man. Isaiah says in our First Reading this Sunday: “For my part, I made no resistance, / neither did I turn away. / I offered my back to those who struck me, / my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; / I did not cover my face / against insult and spittle.
Deep down, we all know that this is the path to greatness; to great love. We are all inspired when the hero of a movie saves the world or any situation and suffers tremendously for it; sometimes, and more so, even unto death. But “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). May we be counted among the few!
This Sunday, we have reached the mountain peak of our liturgical year. Jesus is “Hosanna’d” into the holy city of Jerusalem where He will lay down His life for His friends (cf. John 15:13) for the redemption of those friends. Jesus is about to fulfil the entire law and the prophets. This is what He came to do (cf. Matthew 5:17).
As we stand for our long Gospel this Sunday, let us stand strong with great love for the One who took our life from the grave (cf. Psalm 30:3) as we are recounted how it was exactly that it came to be. We will be told in this Sunday’s Gospel about how the New Covenant will be written (or “cut” in the Hebrew way of saying it—fitting isn't it!) in the Blood of Jesus, and about how his body will hang broken on the new “tree of life” at Golgotha (cf. Genesis 3:22 and Revelation 22:2, 14).
In His crucifixion and death, Jesus will be “counted among the wicked” as Isaiah had prophesied six centuries beforehand. He is finally revealed, the veil has been torn, and we can see that Jesus is the suffering servant that Isaiah and the other prophets had announced. He is the long awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith are heard and recognised loud and clear in the First Reading and Psalm this Sunday.
Dr Scott Hahn puts it like this:
The taunts and torments we hear in these two readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (see Matthew 27:31), as His hands and feet are pierced, as enemies gamble for His clothes (see Matthew 27:35), and as his enemies dare Him to prove His divinity by saving Himself from suffering (see Matthew 27:39-44).
He remains faithful to God's will to the end, does not turn back in His trial. He gives Himself freely to His torturers, confident that, as He speaks in today’s [this Sunday’s] First Reading: "The Lord God is My help...I shall not be put to shame.”