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A tale of two trials

Passion Sunday and Holy Week recall the trial, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The readings and reflections on the passion narratives during Holy Week are a constant reminder of the unjust and illegal trial of the Lord.
 
The trial of Jesus is all about power struggle. The Sanhedrin, composed of 71 members (the high priest, a vice chief justice and 69 general members), decided to do away with Jesus because they realised that this new teacher attracted more followers than they could imagine. They felt threatened when a nomadic preacher mustered multitudes around him to sing “Hosanna!” Vox populi, vox dei: the voice of the people, the voice of God, says the ancient Roman wisdom. But at this time, they could not think of any better option than suppression. The Sanhedrin held an extraordinary session to decide the fate of this new preacher, of course with a pre-determined judgment. 
 
Pilate had his chance to conduct a fair trial but all he cared for was his position as governor under the Roman emperor. He felt threatened by the Jews when they accused him not a friend of Caesar. Pilate’s verdict came when he realised that his chair was at stake.
 
Yet the paradox is that Jesus never revolted against political authority. He never desired power, instead he advocated service, compassion and humility. He embraced lepers, ate with sinners and tax collectors and his closest aides were fishermen. He washed the feet of his own disciples and advocated others to do the same. The religious leadership of Jesus’ time failed to realise that the only way to win people’s hearts was to touch their lives with love and compassion. 
 
Call it strange coincidence, but Hong Kong is talking about a high profile trial during this season of Holy Week. A 20-day trial concluded in the second week of December 2018 of the nine activists who led the biggest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong history, which saw thousands occupying Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay for 79 days in 2014. It was a mass movement of non-violent civil disobedience: Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP). 
 
Fear is a common factor in the history of attempts to suppress mass movements in the world. Suppression is an attempt to cover up one’s fears. The Sanhedrin was afraid of Jesus and Pilate was afraid of the Sanhedrin. Yet, Jesus never questioned their authority, instead he questioned their false understanding of the religion and God. 
 
The religious leadership wanted to get rid of him because he exposed their falsehood. The fear of public embarrassment prompted them to shut the mouth of the whistle blower. And that resulted in the passion and crucifixion of Jesus. 
 
All the mass movements in history were attempts to decry the falsehood of those in authority. A clampdown has never been a lasting solution. The death of Jesus created a false sense of victory for his opponents, but they couldn’t bury the truth for even three days. 
 
It would be an act of courage and character if the government pays attention to the voice of the people. Non-violent civil disobedience is certainly not an attempt to threaten any government. The silence of Jesus before his tormentors was not an act of resignation, but an act of valour. 
 
It takes extraordinary courage and grit to stand for the truth, for truth hurts. jose