In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus agonises over the choices he must make. Finally, he puts himself into his Father’s hands. His followers cannot keep awake. It is not long before Judas arrives and betrays him with a kiss. Even Peter denies having anything to do with Jesus. The religious authorities and the civic authorities reject him. And finally even the crowd shout for his blood.
Betrayed by a friend, by the religious authorities, by the civic authorities ... and by everyone in the crowd it dawns on those participating in the Passion Play that they also have betrayed him.
Think of the ways in which Jesus is betrayed today.
How do you stop yourself going along with the crowd at the point at which you need to take a stand for what is right?
It is the church leaders of Cheltenham who play the part of the religious leaders who put Jesus on trial. They hand him over to the civic leaders of the town who play the part of the civic leaders of Jesus's day. And so it is that Jesus is taken by military escort to the steps of the Municipal offices.
It is the women who follow Jesus faithfully even to his death on the cross. Jesus is taken under arrest from the steps of the Municipal Offices to the Imperial Gardens behind Cheltenham's Town Hall. The crowd walk in silence. And as they walk they find themselves passing by the women once more. Once the disciples have scattered and fled, it is the women who follow Jesus faithfully to the cross. It is as if we are walking the stations of the cross, following the Way of Weeping, the Via Dolorosa, as we listen to the words they have to share.
Pause for a moment and think of some of those words. The God who is at the heart of our Christian faith is the God who comes alongside us at the moment of our deepest despair and remains with us along the Way of Weeping.