3 April 2015
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Passion according to St John
At this moment, there’s not much to say.
Listening to the story, following the story, living into the story, we have reached a moment of total desolation. We entered Jerusalem with Jesus on Palm Sunday and participated in the big parade. We sat at supper last night with Jesus and the disciples and he washed our feet and shared a meal with us at which he said he would be with us always whenever we did it again in memory of him. We kept watch with him last night in the Garden. Today we entered into his betrayal, trial, and execution. Now he is dead.
And no matter what he told us about his suffering, death, and resurrection, no matter how much we wanted to believe that the meal would be a way of connecting with him for ever, at this moment it is hard for us to comprehend what has happened and what the way forward could look like. This isn't what God is supposed to do. This isn't what divine power is supposed to look like. We expect God to act the same as the powerful in our world. The powerful don't let themselves be betrayed. They don't let themselves suffer this way. They don't just put up no defence. They take the bull by the horns and seize what is theirs. They crush their enemies. They do not let themselves be humiliated, paraded through town, and nailed to a cross. Why would God do this when all of this could be avoided with a mere snap of the fingers? Why?
Well, sitting on the other side of Easter Day—as were the community of the Gospel of John who first heard and then retold the Passion narrative we just sung—we know the whole story. I’m not suggesting that we should necessarily be too quick to move into the joy of Easter Day. Rather, knowing the whole story, knowing that Jesus is the king unlike all others, the power that is moved by and towards Love, we can see what has happened in a different light. We can sit with what Jesus has done and marvel at the power of vulnerability, at the strength found in vulnerability. We can allow ourselves to shed the notion—a notion so harmfully held by our culture across time—that vulnerability is weakness. We can begin to comprehend that making oneself vulnerable is an act of enormous courage.
At every moment in his life and ministry Jesus offers himself in Love to the world. He offers divine Love to the world and at no time is he certain how, or if, even, it will be received or reciprocated. This is an act of courage, an act of vulnerability. Jesus does not force us to Love: either to love him back or to ourselves act in Love, for if he did then what was on offer would have to be something other than Love. Love, you see, can not be forced. It can not be coerced. It must be given and received freely or else it is not really Love. Such offering, as any of us who has ever told another person “I love you” knows, is hugely risky. It is an act of real vulnerability because you might be met with indifference, rejection, or worse. Everything Jesus has said and done this past week has involved risk, involved vulnerability.
He took a colt and rode into town. He shared a meal with his friends and washed their feet. He went into the Garden to pray and was arrested. He went on trial and did not defend himself. He was marched through the city to the spot of his execution and allowed himself to be spread out and nailed to the cross. He hung on the cross for all to see, was poked and prodded, and died there. Vulnerable every moment, offering himself in love at every moment and to everyone in the face of hate and rejection. He manifested, made present God’s love in the face of all this and showed us how Love itself can stand in the face of the worst that people can throw at it. Jesus loved unflinchingly when all seemed lost. Love stood fast.
We can sit here now, in the aftermath of the Crucifixion, and begin to understand how the one we worship, the one who sums-up for us the deepest meaning of the cosmos is the one who upends our notions of what power looks like. In his full humanity he suffered as we suffer. He was rejected as we face rejection. He is our brother in the flesh and at the same time in and though him flowed the Love of God, was the Love of God. He gives us a new model of how we are to face the challenges of the world. He shows us that we have great power within ourselves to make the choice to be vulnerable, to offer Love freely, to be confident to know that walling ourselves off, responding to violence and anger with like violence and anger is not the path to which we are called.
In being open, in loving freely, by not demanding a like response, we are allowing space for Love to enter in and change and heal and transform any given moment. Jesus, making himself vulnerable on the cross, loving us from the cross, and following through to the end, that is our model. That is where we sit in the desolation of Good Friday. We sit marvelling at the courage, marvelling at the vulnerability, marvelling at the Love of God, the Love of God who entered into our humanity, took on our flesh, who turned the tables on our ideas of what God does, how God acts, how power is exercised, and we can be inspired. We can be inspired to accept, to get our heads around this new vision of what truly matters. We can dare to align our life and actions with God’s and stand with the vulnerable, the marginal, and help bring the work of Love to the centre of our common life. Here at the foot of the cross rather than see Jesus vulnerability, his suffering and death, as weakness, we can see it for what it truly is: the strongest, most courageous, loving act in which we see who we truly are and what actually matters.
Andrew C. Blume✠
New York City
Cyril of Jerusalem, 18 March 2015
© 2015 Andrew Charles Blume