Jesus weeps the night before he dies and prays for a way out of his imminent execution.
As he does so, he recognises and accepts that it is his purpose to die on the cross. That, through his death, others - indeed the whole world - might be saved.
And so Jesus dies because he puts others before himself.
He dies out of love for those others and for justice for those others. In the hope that by loving one another and seeking a fair and right world for all – humankind will be saved.
I was reflecting on this the other night, when invited to participate in an event that recalled the Armenian genocide in 1915-17 by the Ottoman Turks.
One speaker, Dr Harry Hagopian, a French-Armenian international lawyer and authority on the Armenian genocide, told the stories he had heard from his grandfather of what had happened to his people. And how his grandfather, then a child, and others had fled for their lives – some escaping, others being raped and murdered.
Hagopian also spoke of how hard it was for him and fellow Armenians to forgive and to be at peace with this history, while the world will not recognise that a genocide took place.
So hurtful is this to him, that he can barely bring himself to justify the use of the term genocide in relation to what happened. But let me provide some facts.
First, the number of Armenians living in Turkey in 1914 was about 2 million; in 1922 it was about 400,000. This enormous drop in number points to something catastrophic.
Secondly, the term ‘genocide’ derives from what happened to the Armenians. In the 1940s a Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, was trying to capture in law the extent of Nazi atrocity against the Jews. He said in an interview with CBS, “I became interested in genocide because it happened so many times. First to the Armenians, then after the Armenians, Hitler took action.” Furthermore, Adolf Hitler pointed to the genocide of the Armenians as a reason to expect that he would get away with the genocide of the Jews. He said: “I have sent my Death’s Head units to the east with the order to kill without mercy men, women and children of the Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the Lebensraum (the ‘living space’) that we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
This question remains today. Who, after all, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?
Both the US and UK governments refuse to use the term genocide to describe what happened.
And why is this?
Well, clearly, for fear of upsetting important and strategic relationships with Turkey.
And that’s understandable. It’s good that we employ diplomacy in our foreign affairs.
But can it be right? Can it be justice?
And, without justice, can the Armenian people ever come to terms with what truly happened?
It’s not that Armenians seek revenge. It’s not even that they cannot forgive. They simply seek recognition of what happened.
Bad and terrible things happen in all places and times and sometimes we are a part of them. Only by owning up to this, can we repent and forgive and be reconciled. And our world can hope to break the pernicious ongoing cycles of bitterness, hatred and violence.
This is what justice is about. And this is what Jesus dies for.