When we think about Easter, we may reflect on the Lord’s Supper, trials, crucifixion, burial, and victory as parts of the Cross Event. However, when we consider the occasions of the Cross Event, we may not realize just how the episodes are full of ironies. Irony shows how most participants were unaware of the truth or missed the realities, and that we should not. Scholars have discovered that John, in particular, used ironies in several contexts such as speech, questions, problems, events, or gestures. Therefore, biblical irony does not necessarily fit today’s definition. The writers interwove irony to help readers go deeper into theological truths. As we study the events of Easter week, may we recognize the paradoxes and their significances.
Beginning with Thursday night, in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jn 18:1-11) as the crowd arrived to arrest Him, He asked, “Whom do you seek?” The Roman and temple guards answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He said, “I Am.” Most English versions say, “I am He,” with the He in italics; the Greek only says, “I Am.” At Jesus’ words, the people who could have taken Him by force fell backward from the force of His pronouncement (18:5-6). The irony comes in the I AM’s speaking truth that caused these people to fall powerless. Their disbelief did not allow them to fall forward at His feet in worship, but His power caused them to fall under His authority. Have we lost sight of the One who IS Lord or do we worship at His feet?
Later that evening and into Friday morning, the Jewish leaders after an illegal trial took Jesus to Pilate for the governor to kill Jesus. The leaders would not go into the Praetorium so they would not “defile” themselves and be unable to eat the Passover. While they could have stoned Jesus as a blasphemer, the priests said they were not permitted to put anyone to death—thus fulfilling Jesus’ words by what death He would die (19:31-32). Caiaphas, the high priest, had declared earlier that it was expedient that one man dies for the people (18:14). What irony that the high priest prophesied the very thing that Jesus came to do as the Passover Lamb. How determined are we to be “clean” yet violate the One who was sacrificed for us?
At the Praetorium, Pilate denied the truth even though the Truth was standing in front of Him. Pilate knew that Jesus was not guilty of anything wrong. Pilate presented Jesus with “Behold, your King,” but the priests declared, “We have no king but Caesar” (19:14, 12). How strange that the leaders hated Caesar far less than the true King who would rule with love, not violence. With whom do we identify, Pilate, the Jews, or Jesus?
During this trial, Pilate asked the Jews, “Whom do you wish that I release for you?”—a custom of releasing someone during the Passover. The people cried for Barabbas, a robber. The man’s name, Jesus Bar-Abbas, meant “Jesus, the son of the father.” The incongruity is that Bar-Abbas should have died for his sins, but Jesus the true Son of Father-God gave His sinless life for all who have transgressed against God. May we never choose the lesser over the Almighty. For what or in what has the Lord taken our place and we have not identified that He did?
During the silence of Saturday, the soldiers wondered whether the disciples would steal the body of Jesus to “fulfill” His prophecy of rising from the grave (Matt 27;62-66; Jn 19:38-20:9). The soldiers asked Pilate to seal the tomb. The contradiction underscores that they had more faith in the resurrection than Jesus’ disciples. How often do we doubt the truth of what Jesus has revealed?
On Sunday, the disciples still struggled with the death and resurrection of Jesus. One instance occurred with Thomas’ desire to touch Jesus’ wounds in order to believe. Jesus said, “Blessed are they who did not see and yet believed” (Jn 20:29). The disciples had Jesus, in person, teaching them about the resurrection. We have the Scriptures that tell about Jesus and His Cross Event. Do we believe them?
This Easter, may we consider the incongruities and their correlations for us. May we each believe all that the Scriptures say about the living Christ who sacrificed Himself. Let us rejoice even more in the resurrection of our Lord.
Written by Sharon Gresham, firstname.lastname@example.org