In Christianity, the Passion of Jesus, (from the Latin passionem meaning ‘suffering’) is the short final period in the life of Jesus in which Christians believe Jesus endured his suffering for the redemption of humankind from their sins. The Passion starts from Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane until His death by crucifixion on Mount Calvary. Christians believe that the Passion of Jesus shows that He offered Himself to cleanse the sins of the world.
The Passion of Jesus in the four Gospels and the non-canonical Gospel of Peter provide the details of events and are known as ‘Passion narratives’.
The Passion of Jesus is commemorated in Holy Week. A brief overview of the Passion of Jesus begins on Palm Sunday, when Jesus makes a triumphant procession into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshipping him and laying down palm leaves before him. Yet, at the same time, many Jews want to see Jesus stoned for being a blasphemer. On the Wednesday, Jesus leaves for the Mount of Olives where he tells the apostles what will happen in the next few days, including his death. Jesus returns to Jerusalem on Thursday, to share the Last Supper with His apostles.
After the Last Supper, Jesus was arrested and stood trial before the Sanhedrin. Responding to their questions, Jesus was condemned to death for blasphemy. The Sanhedrin did not have the power to order the execution, so the Jewish leaders take Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate requesting he order the execution, adding treason to the charge. Pilate could not find evidence to condemn Jesus to execution, despite the extra trials, but ordered he be scourged. The soldiers added other tortures including crowning Jesus with thorns, dressing Him in a purple cloak, spitting upon Him and mocking Him.
After the scourging, Pilate again presented Jesus to the crowd who chanted, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Fearing a revolt, Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified on Friday.
Gospel of Saint Peter
The Gospel of Peter, long known of, but only discovered in Cairo in 1884, relates the Passion of Jesus with Pilate washing his hands, as in Matthew, but the Jews and Herod refuse this. Joseph of Arimathea, before Jesus has been crucified, asks for his body, and Herod says he is going to take it down to comply with the Jewish custom of not leaving a dead body hung on a tree overnight. Herod then turns Jesus over to the people who drag him, give him a purple robe, crown him with thorns, and beat and flog him.
There are also two criminals, crucified on either side of him and, as in Luke, one begs Jesus for forgiveness. The writer says Jesus is silent as they crucify him, “…as if in no pain.”Jesus is labelled the King of Israel on his cross and his clothes are divided and gambled over.
As in the canonical Gospels, darkness covers the land. Jesus is also given vinegar to drink. Peter has “My Power, My Power, why have you forsaken me?” as the last words of Jesus, rather than “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” as quoted in Mark. He is then “taken up”, possibly a euphemism for death or maybe an allusion to heaven. Peter then has a resurrection, similar to the other books.
The Trials of Jesus
The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John report the trials of Jesus in slightly different ways. Mark, Matthew and John describe two separate proceedings, with first the Sanhedrin and then Pilate. Luke writes of three trials, the extra being with Pilate sending Jesus to Herod Antipas. The Gospel of Peter does not report multiple trials, instead describing a single trial scene involving Jewish, Roman, and Herodian officials.
Drama and processions
Non-musical depictions of the Passion story are known as Passion plays and are commonly performed in Catholic countries. The portrayal of the Passion of Jesus usually show his humiliation during his trails and violence before his sentence to crucifixion in Pilate’s Palace as being carried out by jeering Jews. Processions on Palm Sunday commonly re-enact at some level, the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem.