Today’s reading is John 18:25-40 (NABRE):
Peter Denies Jesus Again.
25 Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.
The Trial before Pilate.
28 Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring [against] this man?” 30 They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone,” 32 in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. 33 So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” 37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
I have just returned from the Palm Sunday Vigil Mass. I open my laptop to write my weekly 40 Days in John blog post. As always, I start by reading the assigned passage: John 18:25-40. I scan the passage, noting the headings “Peter Denies Jesus Again” and “The Trial before Pilate.” My heart sinks. I recognize the passage instantly; I know it intimately. It is the Gospel of John’s equivalent of the Gospel of Matthew passage that was read at the Palm Sunday Vigil Mass today.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed to read and write about what I have just read in Mass. I do not want to read and write about how Jesus was tried, eventually to be crucified, because of the sins of this world, my own included.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed to admit that, if I were Peter, living the Passion in real time, I, too, would deny Jesus for fear of my own imprisonment and further punishment.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed that the cock would crow, audibly announcing my denial of Jesus.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed that I am part of the crowd dragging Jesus to the praetorium (the residence of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate) where he will be condemned to death.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed that I am part of the crowd that calls Jesus a criminal.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed that my voice echoes along with Pontius Pilate’s when he asks Jesus (who has already worked miracles to prove that he is the way, the truth, and the life), “’What is truth?’” (John 18:38).
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed that I am part of the crowd that shouts “Barabbas!” when asked whether Jesus or another criminal should be released.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed that the release of Barabbas is one more step facilitating the crucifixion of Jesus that we will read about in the next passage of the Gospel of John.
I cannot deny it: I am ashamed to admit that, even after twenty-one years of condemning and crucifying Jesus through my own words, actions, and omissions, I am still looking forward to the glory of Easter that follows the suffering and solemnity of the Passion and of Holy Week.
Marina Spinelli ’18 is a Junior in Eliot House studying Human Evolutionary Biology.