Sabbath day and we are afraid, exhausted and unmoored.
Someone finally said it – what if we are next? Will they come for us like they came for him?
Wasn’t it one of our first thoughts?
The shame of it fills us, how we worried about our own selves when the torches filled the night and the eyes of the accusers scanned the crowd. How quickly we forgot all we had learned from him.
Three years we walked with him. Three years of conversations resound from memory. He said to the lame – pick up your mat and walk – and they did. He said to the blind – what do you see? And their darkness was no more. He said to the priests – my Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer and he overturned their pride, their profit. He said of Jairus’ daughter – she is only sleeping – and death flew from her body.
But then – how they sneered into his face, how they battered him, how they pushed thorns into his skin – and he did not protest. He did not fight back and he could have, he could have spoken and his words would have changed it all.
It feels like we are right back where we started, sea-sick and tossed by the storm, and we ask it again -“What manner of man is this?”
Don’t you know Me, even after I have been among you such a long time? I know what others say – but what about you? Even now, who do you say I am?
In the dry ache of grief, in the kind of hindsight that haunts – we admit that he warned us. This was no surprise to him, this was no unexpected disaster. Didn’t he say that one of us would betray him? Didn’t he say that he would be handed over to the priests and the Gentiles?
Who could accept such hard words from the one whose face shone like the sun? We heard the voice from heaven call him loved – the voice of the Father, pleased with His Son! Wouldn’t the Father intervene in such madness, any evil that would rise up against him?
But still he said it: the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified. He must suffer and he must die.
We didn’t want to hear those words , not from him. Never, we said. This shall never happen to our Lord.
This very night you will all fall away on account of me, he said. And we were brave, then, behind those closed doors – ready to promise anything. Even if we have to die with you, we said, we will never disown you.
But he knew already, didn’t he, how we would fail him? And, still, he wanted us close. Still, he said he loved us.
Still, he served us the Passover cup with those words that ring even now in our ears – this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Drink from it, all of you.
And now that we saw his blood streaming like tears down his face, flowing like water from his side – we look at each other in wonder – did he choose to let his life-blood drain away for us?
I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… I am the Good Shepherd…and I lay down my life for the sheep…No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
He asked us to keep watch with him. There, in the garden, he wanted us to pray.
For all our promises, for all our intentions – we could not do what he asked, with that sorrow we could not understand etched in his eyes. Twice he pleaded – watch and pray.
We were worn with worry, confusion usurping our passion. We did not watch and pray. We slept.
And after they came, we ran.
Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
It seems like his cry will ever echo – my God, my God, why have You forsaken me? The same voice that calmed our fears with a simple – It is I – the same voice that could lift our spirits in an instant with a simple phrase – take heart!…that voice was colored by the darkest despair. Will we ever forget the ragged rasp of it? Will we ever understand – oh, Father God – did You forsake him?
Have You forsaken us?
Will we all end up in that tomb?
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.
Hesitant, carefully – we speak of the spark to the kindling of the high priest’s anger. An answer, he wanted, to the question – didn’t this Jesus say he could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days? A confession, he wanted, to this charge – tell them clearly – do you say that you are the Son of God?
You have said so. But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.
And what of this? What of his scandalous, outrageous, extraordinary promises?
I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, the life. I am the Living Water and I am the bread of life.
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again…I have the authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
And it is like we collectively draw in a new breath and hold it in our lungs like a mustard seed, like a fresh wind, like a flickering flame.
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy…I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
It is the sound of our hearts daring to beat again, the pulse of something like hope in the sound of it – on the third day, on the third day, on the third day…
and, together, we wait for dawn.