28 Mar Sunday is Coming. Hallelujah!
What did you, could you think
as they pounded through your open palms
forcing coarse, bloody iron nail
to sink deep into the splintered wood?
Did you feel the grasp of panic,
that sudden, stomach-wrenching sense
that this, at the very last, is it
no further chance of changing, turning back?
Were you, perhaps, bewildered,
having hoped, despite defiant words,
or at least one late and minor miracle
on your own behalf, considering all the rest?
Did flooding fear compound with rage and hate
at the sheer blind brutality of soldiers,
fellow sons of God, treating you
like meat to be hung raw in a butcher’s window?
Or dare we yet believe what was written,
that your concern was, even at the end, to shield,
to plead the cause of all who wield the whips
and crushing hammers of this crucifying world?
These words, titled The Last Miracle were written by poet, author and Presbyterian pastor Reverend J. Barrie Shepherd. They remind me that a very human Jesus suffered very human anguish and excruciating pain—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—as he was stripped naked, whipped, beaten, flogged, slapped, humiliated and spit upon. Suffering is something Jesus knows intimately.
The Lenten season is drawing to a close. On Maundy Thursday the Church will recall the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, when he knelt before these, his closest friends, and washed their feet one by one, to demonstrate what “servant leadership” really means. These were the same friends who had just been arguing about which one of them should be given the top posts in Jesus’ cabinet when he overthrew the Romans and got down to the business of governing the Jews.
Their now-clean feet barely dry, Jesus made a second move to teach his friends the true meaning of community. He broke bread and compared it to his own body which would soon be broken for their sakes. He shared wine and compared it to his own blood which would soon be spilled for their sakes. He asked them to remember and repeat these acts of self-giving love when he was gone.
On Good Friday the Church will kneel before the Cross and do a lot more remembering. We will remember Peter’s broken promises and think about our own broken promises. We will remember Judas’ betrayal and think about our own betrayals. We will remember Jesus’ mind-boggling example of forgiveness, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and we will think of our own shortcomings in forgiving even the tiniest of hurts and slights.
As we gaze intently at the Cross, we will see, in addition to Christ’s broken body, the love of God that defies all explanation; the mercy of God that encompasses all humanity; and the redemption of God that thwarts evil’s best attempts to consign us to a life of despair and meaninglessness. We will stand in muted wonder, heads bowed. No other response is possible.
On Saturday the Church will watch and wait. Having entered deeply into the suffering and silence of Jesus’ death, we will live into the pregnant pause that is Holy Saturday. We wait, expectantly and hopefully, yet without wanting to rush. When the sun rises on Easter Sunday, the joy and celebration of an empty tomb is Good News precisely because of its profound juxtaposition with the depths we have plumbed in the preceding days. But, we know….oh yes, we know. That grave can’t hold him forever. Easter is coming. Hallelujah!
Yours for the Kingdom,
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