This week is Holy Week, with the pivotal days being Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. These days mark the time of the Lord’s Passion, when Jesus Christ was arrested, tried, condemned to death, and crucified. The story of the Lord’s Passion has been presented in various films (including Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ) and various plays (most notably the Passion Play shown every decade in Oberammergau, Germany). Some of these depictions have been accused of Anti-Semitism, a debate which continues to this day.
Some people have pointed to the Crucifixion as justification for Anti-Semitism, claiming that the Jews were the key instigators in the death of Jesus, even referring to them as Christ-killers. Needless to say, Jews have been the victims of prejudice throughout the centuries. In order to refute such claims, one should examine the Passion. And when one examines the Passion, he or she should look at it not only from a theological perspective, but also from a historical perspective (as well as a logical perspective).
In the past few weeks, I attended a seminar at my parish on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. During one session, I presented a few points which I had written down. They are as follows:
— Were all Jews in the world at that time present at the Crucifixion? (Answer: no. In addition, not all of the Jews were in Jerusalem at that time).
— Were all Jews who were present before and during the Crucifixion calling for Jesus to be crucified? (Answer: no. In fact, aside from his mother, friends, and disciples, there were those of the Jewish faith who did not think Jesus should be crucified, but were afraid to be speak out. There were those among the Jews who were indifferent regarding the matter, while others either did not know enough about Jesus to form an opinion (or did not know anything about him at all, or were merely curious as to what was going on).
— Other people present in Jerusalem at the time (e.g. Romans, people from other lands not of the Jewish faith) had similar views. Examples include Pontius Pilate’s reluctance to have Jesus crucified, or perhaps merchants from other lands who were curious as to what was going on.
Pilate’s reluctance to condemn Jesus has been argued by some to absolve the Romans of the death of Jesus. Therefore, they try to blame his death solely on the Jews. But if someone wanted to blame the Jews, technically they would have to blame the Sanhedrin and the crowd whom they had stirred up against Jesus, (and it is unclear as to how many people were in that crowd). As for the Romans, they would have to blame those who carried the scourging and the crucifixion. In addition, there were some participants who were remorseful afterwards.
But most important is that Jesus asked the Father to forgive them (Jews, Romans, etc.) and that Jesus died on the cross in fulfillment of the scriptures. In addition, as Mel Gibson (and the deacon of my parish) stated, all of us were responsible, for Jesus died for our sins and our salvation.
Image: Courtesy of: http://lagstad-folkmord.wikispaces.com/Antisemitismens+ historia