Jesus and the cross

Meditations for Holy Week and Easter, by Nigel Varndell.

These reflections are also available to download in PDF format 


A reflection for Maundy Thursday

Why did you wash their feet?

I don’t understand, it makes no sense.


Why did you do something so demeaning,

so distasteful,

when you did not have to?

Why humble yourself and wash the feet of your own disciples?

You are the Messiah,

it makes no sense for you, of all people,

to do something that should be done by the least of all people,

not by the greatest.

It is not what we want our Messiahs to do.



unless we have got it wrong and that,

somehow this is a measure of what Messiah means?

Not that it is defined in greatness

but that somehow, in your world the first will be last,

and the greatest, least and servant of all?.


But if we are to follow you, 

does it mean that we must follow your example too?

Are you suggesting that we too should make ourselves humble?

That we must wash the feet of the people whom we would rather ignore,

or scapegoat,

or deride?


Must we too become the servants of the least among us?

the refugee,

the disabled,

the homeless,

the addicted,

the anti-social,

the child?


Was that what all of this was about?

To try and put us in our rightful place, 

not at the centre of our own world, 

but at the centre of yours,

where we are no longer the most important person?

Is that it?

Were you trying to teach us this simple truth,

that other people, 

all other people,

should matter too?


Is that why you washed their feet?


A reflection for Good Friday


It was the Romans who killed you,

who nailed you to a cross

to punish you for thinking differently.

Murdered for daring to challenge the might of Imperial Rome.

Murdered for daring to suggest that the world should be different, 

that it could be rearranged for once,

not to make the powerful comfortable,

but deeply uncomfortable.



maybe it was the religious leaders who wanted you dead?

For challenging their deeply and sincerely held religious truths, 

for shaking things up and rocking the boat,

for daring to suggest that just because 

we have always done it like this,

we always must?

We cannot challenge the guardians of tradition,

where would we be without it?

Better surely to let one man die….



It was the crowd!

It was their fault

It must have the been the crowd who gathered and cried “Crucify!”

who are the ones who killed you.

What they need, you see, is a scapegoat, 

someone for the Romans to blame,

so that they won’t come looking for anyone else.



maybe it was me?


Maybe you should pity me, 

for on this Good Friday,

I will stand with the Romans,

because I, who have everything,

don’t really want anything to change.

I will stand with the religious leaders,

and make sure that my traditions are honoured,

no matter who they exclude.

I will stand with the crowd,

who already know who is to blame 

for all that goes wrong.


And I will cry “Crucify”


A reflection for Holy Saturday


What was it like for the first disciples?

What was it like to live on that first Holy Saturday 

when all hope is gone, 

when all that we love is lost,

when God is dead?


We know the end of the story.

We know of resurrection,

so we do not wish to dwell in this dark place,

we want to rush on to Easter Sunday,

when life returns.


It is too hard to live on Holy Saturday,

to spend our time in the dark and conflicted places 

of Golgotha and Gethsemane,

the place where despair has all the best answers

to our questions.


But what of the people who have no choice?

What of the people who always live on Holy Saturday.

The child beaten and abused at home 

whose only hope is to run away?

The child living with alcohol misusing parents,

Trapped, too young, into adult responsibilities.

The disabled child,

never given the chance to join in.

The refugee child,

always a problem,

never simply a person.


What must it be like to live on Holy Saturday,

when we do not know how the story ends?


When hope is absent

who will be there to look after them?

Who will be there for the children 

on their Holy Saturday?


A reflection for Easter Sunday


Sometimes it doesn’t work out as you expect.

Sometimes even though you know 

the game is up,

even though you know 

the inevitable outcome,

even sometimes when you have given up yourself…

…it doesn’t work out as you expect.


There are those days when the child,

who has been running away for years,

every week, without fail,



The day when the disabled child,

is finally accepted for who they are.

When the traveller,

for so long the outsider, 

suddenly becomes a friend.


There are those days when,

in the face of despair,

for some unexpected and 

incomprehensible reason,

our long dead hopes 

are brought back to life.


There are those days 

we suddenly realise 

the stone has been moved…

… and the tomb is empty.