Where is the lifting up, the being exalted so very high? What is going on here? Jesus is dead! How can that be the ultimate of joy, of blessing, of promise? Death is the beginning of life. This cross of shame, of humiliation and torture is the end of mortality and living as the human form lives, it is the beginning of life everlasting.
IN the garden, Jesus said, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I’ve always interpreted that as meaning that those with Jesus were willing to be with him, their spirit’s were wanting to be supportive, but their flesh did not allow such stress, such strain on their beings, so they fell asleep. And I believe that is part of the truth of the statement. But it is also true that the statement speaks to Jesus’ wrestling, Jesus’ questing to serve God’s will over his own. His own spirit, the Holy Spirit, alive and enfleshed in the humanity of Jesus, was willing to serve the greater good, the salvation of all sinful beings. Ah, yes, his Spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak…foreseeing the pain of the cross, foreseeing the anguish of blood and whipping, comprehending, as we ourselves do, the emotions behind preparing for a gruesome scene…he knew the terrific cries of those crucified…impaled in their wrists, their feet, hanging and tearing in their flesh…yes, his flesh wanted to bolt, to turn tail and run away! He knew, in part, the anticipated duration of being on the cross…and just like we don’t willingly touch a hot stove or put a needle in our eye just for fun, Jesus did not want, in his flesh, to endure the cross…
But he finished that prayer in the garden with these words, “not my will, but thine be done.” And he went to greet the soldiers, healing them in the process, honoring their ways and gifting to them his grace even in the face of his own death.
John’s writing of this scene does not include the forgiveness that we hear in Luke, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do!” But we do know…we know when we do wrong, when we turn from God’s Spirit and the inner voice of God speaking right and wrong to us…we do know.
This is the cross, to be wronged and to love through that wrong. To give of one’s self in order to allow the hope of another to survive, to divest one’s self of all that makes sense in order to follow God’s plan that makes no sense, this is the blessing of the cross, the joy of Christ’s death. Anguish and pain, suffering and gore, torture and grief allow us to rely on God in ways that we never will when life is simple and purely pleasurable.
I despise death and the horror of total separation, the loss of relationship that follows death. There is no give and take in death, there is no repartee or sense of hope because it is a one-sided affair. I don’t get to choose when or how or what is the outcome, I only get to participate as willingly as I am able. You see, even Jesus was not totally willing to participate…”O God, take this cup from me!” but in resignation and complete faith, in renouncing himself and the ways of the fleshly will, he returned to God, he lowered himself in faith and he said, “not my will, but yours be done.”
This is also our call, it is the Lord’s prayer, it is the hope of our lives, that God’s will be done. Even through the horrors of life that are as torturous as the cross.
Even so, Jesus did not abandon love; John tells us that he connected people, offering to his mother a son to serve her in the customs of their people, keeping her socially connected and attended upon his death and the certain changes that would follow, even knowing he would return resurrected…”Woman, here is your son.” and to his friend, the disciple, “Here is your mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own home.” NEVER does Jesus stop being connected, does he stop connecting with people, in love.
His flesh, drained and bloody, mutilated and gouged, heeds thirst. “a jar full of sour wine was standing there, so they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. The very gift he’s given to his disciples in the Passover feast, the wine, the new covenant in his blood, poured out for you and for all generations to be received in remembrance of him, his message, his hope, his unwavering love, comes to him soured on a hairy leaf, to offer him relief…there is irony there. Heavy, I hear his voice announce, “It is finished.”
I am done fighting to give, I am done fighting to offer hope, I am done attempting to change hearts, one person at a time. Not my will, but yours be done, O heavenly Father. (pause-hold silence)
The way of the cross is victory; it is death to sin, it is death to my will, it is death to life on my own.
Would that you and I could be blessed by the Spirit that asks God to let us serve the Almighty alone. Would that, to the last, we seek to connect in love and hope, all people, even unto death, crying, It is finished. …Amen