A tale of two gates

The contrast could not be starker. One man enters by the South gate, clothed in judicial robes, surrounded by armed guards, the very model of imperial power – self-assured, a man of wealth and prestige, and held in veneration by sycophants. Another man enters by the North gate, clothed as a simple Galilean peasant, greeted by a few waving branches in imitation of the old days when David came to the city as king. This man arrives on a donkey, hardly a model of any kind of useful power, but held in veneration by those who look on with hope for the poor and dispossessed.

The confrontation of these two men is about to make history. Pilate, the delegate of Imperial Rome, egged on by those who have been affronted, decides the poor Galilean prophet must be handed over to his fate. He washes his hands – it is nothing to do with him. Jesus, the prophet who has entered by the North gate, as so often, will now be pilloried, persecuted and put to death. One man, who has the power to be merciful and beneficent, walks away and leaves a poor man to his fate. The other, who has often talked about the mercy, forgiveness and love of God, is left in the hands of those who think God requires punishment, retributive justice and sacrifice – the sacrifice of flesh. It is as if two opposing forces have entered by these gates into Jerusalem, and that these forces must battle it out in the middle – cross and confront each other at that spot, some say, that marks the centre of the world.

The tale of two gates begins the story of Holy Week. One gate where the powerful enter, self-assured, wealthy and prestigious, sometimes greedy beyond measure, often out of touch, with a tendency to be unmerciful and unforgiving. There are plenty of Pilates in this world! At the other gate enter the powerless, the poor, those who seek justice and mercy, and who risk being punished if they speak out. There are some who are like Jesus in this world, and they are saints. These are the ones who live and breath mercy and forgiveness, who serve others to the point of death, and who love with a love that lays down no conditions. To do so is to follow the way of God, and to live the way of God is to risk that place of crossing and confrontation.

Thank God for all those, especially our angels and saints in the health and care system, who daily take up the cross and walk to that place at the centre of our world where God meets us in love and care.

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