Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
A man is betrayed by a friend, a trusted companion. He is taken away and put before the religious authorities and then the civil authorities. His situation is without much hope. The authorities are determined to find a way to execute this man. His friends run away in fear, and this man is left alone to face his fate. No one is willing to help as he is given up to an excruciating death. A story that is indeed the stuff of tragedy. Yet this story, as we listen to it, doesn’t seem tragic at all. This man faces his fate with uncommon dignity, indeed, with a touch of triumph. The Christ is not a tragic figure here. As the mob comes to seize him in the Garden, and they ask for Jesus of Nazareth, he replies, I AM. A bold statement, a claim to the name given to Moses when he asked the identity of the power behind the burning bush. A statement that Christ will not turn away, but accept the fate he knows awaits him. At each turn, in front of the high priest, in front of Pilate, Jesus faces what is coming. His seemingly inexorable movement toward death is not a tragedy, but more a triumphal procession. Christ knows where he is going and goes there willingly. This is not to diminish the pain that lay before him. He knew what was to come, he lived under Roman rule, he had undoubtedly seen crucifixions before. He knew what awaited him, a horrific, painful death. In any circumstances, a tragic end. But my brothers and sisters this is not tragedy. Indeed it is triumph of the highest order. Despite knowing what was to come, despite the suffering he faced, despite the horrible death, he went forward. He went forward to triumph, for you and for me. He triumphed that we might triumph. This story is not about death, but life, life given for us, life given to us. This is a story of life, triumph and glory. Do you want life? Look to the top of the Hill. Do you want to see real triumph, true glory? Look, there it is on that cross.
March 21, 2008