Isaiah 52:13-53:11, Luke 22:39–23:56
You might wear a cross. You might have one on a wall in your home. You probably have one on your bible. Today the cross has lost much of its brutality and disgrace. Movies like the “Passion of the Christ” attempt to convey the brutality, but it is so very hard to convey and understand the disgrace of the cross. Especially on this day, you need to see the cross not as what it became, but see it as the people of 2000 years ago saw it. The day they saw it on Good Friday. It was disgraceful. It was ugly. It was the ruling powers’ symbol of might, conquest, and oppression. There was nothing, absolutely nothing that could be remotely good or positive about, and there could be nothing good or positive about the one on it. We are often tempted to diminish the cross, lightly saying we have a cross to bear. The cross is no light burden.
The disciples had a light burden. Accompany Jesus to the garden. And the succumbed to temptation. The world is full of temptation. There are many things which seem good, and are, but become bad, as we follow them away from God. Especially in the United States, we have a, “I can do it myself” mentality. There is also the success ladder, of ever-increasing hours spent working. There are all the things that we are told we just have to have. Sometimes the temptation is to simply sleep, when God has told us to be praying, as what happened here with the disciples. Jesus wasn’t chiding the disciples for falling asleep, but for not praying when he asked. Temptation takes on many guises. Judas and Peter were tempted.
Judas Iscariot will forever be known as the traitor. Peter will be ever known as one of Jesus’ closest followers. Yet, Peter denied Jesus to others. One of the biggest differences between Judas Iscariot and Peter is not their respective betrayal, for they both betrayed Christ, but that Peter’s heart was open to correction. Judas Iscariot took things, including his self-condemnation, without grace. Peter understood and accepted the unmerited grace of Jesus, but Judas Iscariot did not believe it applied to him. Instead of being forever the traitor, he could have repented, and been redeemed. Betrayal is not just turning Jesus over, or denying Jesus, but saying that Jesus offer of unmerited grace does not apply to you or others. Grace is the key to healing the world and reconciling it to God. However, the fallen human heart turns to violence instead.
Violence is a cruel part of this world. Wars, robbery, school violence, abuse, bullying, anger, disrespect are all acts of violence. When we hear the word violence, we generally think of physical acts. However, Jesus tells us that violence is as much against the soul and well-being of the individual (both the perpetrator and the recipient), as it is the body. In fact, much, if not all of the violence that is physical done, at the root, is caused by the violence done to the soul and mind.
Jesus spoke while on the cross, in the midst of pain, and the climax of abuse, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” The victim of violence, while being violated, asked for them to be forgiven.
We hold our griefs, our pains, our anguish often so close to our hearts that God doesn’t come near. Not because God can’t, for nothing is impossible for God, but because God doesn’t want to be violent toward us. When we release these things, God steps in, joyfully, desiring to help us surrender the pain that we hold onto keeping God away from us.
1) What are your temptations that pull you away from God and God’s mission of reconciliation? Can you be honest with yourself and God that those temptations have been nailed to the cross, and that you will leave them there?
2) Who has shown you grace? If you can’t think of anyone, then you have work to do. At some point in your life, someone gave you a lot of grace. What does God’s grace mean to you? What could God’s grace lived out in the world actually do?
3) What pain keeps your heart from being fully yielded to God, and being God’s willing aide? Will you look at the nails of the cross, and leave that pain nailed there?
May Jesus Christ, who for our sake became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, keep you and strengthen you, now and forever.