No Greater Love: Reflections on the Arrest and Nighttime Trial

Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” -Mt 26:34

Photo by Kazi Faiz Ahmed Jeem on Unsplash

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

No Greater Love: Session Two Sharing

In this session, Dr. Sri covers the arrest of Jesus and His trial before the Sanhedrin, giving us plenty of material for discussion! Several Sisters were struck by the repeated emphasis on the “Son of Man” prophecy in Daniel 7. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report Jesus quoting from this passage during His trial and applying it to Himself. As 21st- century Christians we often miss the Jewish context of such allusions, but Dr. Sri shows how Jesus’ words were intended to be a claim to divinity, and were taken as such by the chief priests. It is this claim that earns Him the sentence of blasphemy, for which He will face death.

Another topic that claimed our attention was the high priests’ great hardness of heart. To modern readers, many of Jesus’ claims about Himself seem very vague, thus rendering the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ proverbial lack of faith somewhat forgivable. However, exploring the Old Testament prophecies – and the way they were understood in first-century Judaism – reveals just how clear Jesus’ words would have been to His contemporaries. In light of this, how is it that the chief priests, so deeply versed in the Scriptures and in centuries of tradition, so adamantly rejected Christ? The answer can be found within each and every human heart. How often do we see the truth, or know what is the right thing to do, yet we stubbornly refuse to believe or to act? We can be every bit as blind as the Scribes and Pharisees were, and this hardness of heart is one of the most dangerous spiritual maladies. Like the elder son in the Prodigal Son parable, the Father has shown us His generosity and begged us to return to Him – it is up to us to respond with the loving obedience of faith.

Another Sister commented on the arrest of Jesus as reported in the Gospel of John. It is easy to dismiss Christ’s powerful “I AM” and the confusion of His enemies as Johannine hyperbole, but such a dismissal overlooks the profound truth of this passage. It shows that, while it may not always appear so, Jesus was truly the one in control of His Passion – and, by extension, of every “messy” situation in our lives and in the world. When we react like Peter, who didn’t understand Christ’s control of the situation, we only make matters worse (though we hopefully don’t cut off anyone’s ear!) Yet Jesus even has the power to bring good out of our blundering attempts to “help,” as He used Peter’s rash move as the occasion to perform His final healing on Malchus.

We concluded our discussion by considering Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus. What a mystery it is that Christ chose such an imperfect man to be the “rock” of the Church! In fact, it was through Peter’s sin and repentance that he came to rely more fully on God (since he saw how weak he is of himself), and it is this reliance that enabled God to do great things through him. This can give us great confidence that Christ will never abandon His Church, even though the successors of Peter are as imperfect as any one of us!

One of the Sisters wrote a beautiful prayer, imagining what Jesus said to the repentant Peter after his threefold denial.  Though the chief apostle had sinned, Christ knew his heart intimately and called him to encounter God’s mercy and witness to Him “in the third part of your life.” Sister took this message to heart, hearing in it Jesus’ call for her to follow Him ever more faithfully, to renew her commitment to Him, and to witness to the Paschal Mystery “in the third part of her life”!