Ways of Seeing the Passion of the Christ

On this Sunday, the main Gospel reading focuses on the Passion in preparation for the Good Friday remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation. Continuing last week’s reflection on the four
Gospels, this article will comment on how each of them presents His sacrifice for our salvation.The Gospels of Matthew and Mark are similar in how they describe the true suffering of Jesus.
We proceed from the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus says “Not my will, but Thine be done” to the hill of Golgotha, where Jesus quotes the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have Your forsaken me.” In contrast to the sacrificial love of Jesus is the dishonest envy of the leaders of Jerusalem, the puzzled cowardice of Pontius Pilate, and the faltering of even His disciples. Only Simon of Cyrene helps Him (involuntarily), with the devout women mourning in the distance.

The two Gospels vary slightly in their signs of triumph over death. In Matthew, when Jesus dies, an earth communion of saints. Mark presents, in the garden of Gethsemane, a mysterious young man clothed in a shroud. He casts away the shroud; but then the young man (presumably an angel) is there at the empty tomb on Easter morning, now in a white robe announcing the Resurrection. It is an image of humanity casting away the domination of death and receiving a new status as a people of everlasting life.

The Gospels of Luke and John emphasize the compassion and command of Jesus. Luke describes many of the same events as Mark and Matthew, but adds such events as the devout women
weeping with Jesus on the way to the Cross and Jesus comforting them as well. On Calvary, Jesus prays, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” hears the repentant thief’s confession, and gives him the wondrous promise, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” John describes Jesus’ power and majesty as He is virtually marching off to triumph through the Cross. Thus, for example, at His very arrest, Jesus’ thundering proclamations, “I Am” (reflecting the name of God, “I Am who Am”) show forth a power that causes the soldiers to retreat; and in the conversation with Pilate, Jesus is very much in control. Likewise, He shows divine authority even on Calvary, entrusting Mary and John to each other and pronouncing His last words, “It is consummated.” The Gospels thus, in their different ways, show the true suffering, compassion and power of Jesus as He offered His life for us, in anticipation of the Resurrection.