Monday, April 25, 2011

A New Day Dawning

What a week of ups and downs it had been. Last Sunday was amazing - crowds lining the way, cheering Hosanna! Rescue Us!, hoping that they were seeing their Messiah at last; Jesus looking steadfastly toward Jerusalem, responding very little to the adulation showered down upon Him.

He curses the fig tree, symbolizing what was to come for Jerusalem.

He goes to the Temple and creates a fracas.

He asserts His authority to the authorities confronting Him about His actions, once again leaving them seething and even more determined to rid themselves of Him. There is a price on His head now.

He weeps over the city: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

He makes arrangements with His disciples for the Passover. Judas makes arrangements with the authorities for the delivering up of Jesus to them for 30 pieces of silver.

The Passover is celebrated and Jesus institutes the Last Supper, telling His disciples to continue the sacrament in remembrance of Him.

They sing a hymn and make their way to the garden at Gethsemane, where Jesus asks everyone to wait but asks Peter, James and John to come a little further with Him.  He asks them to watch and pray for Him; then He goes a little further by Himself.

He pours His heart out in anguish and submission to His Father, sweat falling to the ground like great drops of blood.

Judas brings the authorities to the garden and betrays Jesus with a kiss.

His trials begin; He is pronounced not guilty; the crowds are whipped into a frenzy, screeching "Crucify Him!"

Peter denies Him. Three times.

He is stripped, flogged, a thorny crown jammed onto His head. He is taunted and mocked. There are six trials in all. Finally Pilate relents and accedes to the increasingly threatening demands to crucify Him.

A rough, heavy cross is put together and He is forced - in His weakened, battered state - to drag it to the Hill of the Skull, the hill where criminals were put to death, Calvary.

Nails were hammered through His hands and feet, attaching Him to the cross. A shallow hole was dug and the cross with Him on it was dropped unceremoniously into that hole. It was about 9 o'clock in the morning.

He hung on that cross for six hours. 

Where was His Father during all of His suffering? How could any loving father watch his son hang there in agony and not make any effort to free him? What were the angels thinking, not springing to His rescue?

I imagine that heaven has never fallen so silent. As Jesus cried out in pain beyond pain, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?", the response was a darkness that fell heavily over the afternoon land for three excruciating hours.

I imagine that at first the angels asked if they could have permission to rescue Him. And His Father turned His face away from them. Did they catch a glimpse of tears, tears like blood, falling to the floor of heaven? Heaven's collective breath was held each time Jesus spoke from the cross. Would it be now that He would call for them? They were ready to attack, that great host, that army of heaven. They had been there for His birth. They just needed the sign and they would be there at His death.

Finally, He uttered the words, "It is Finished!" and He died.

And with that all Heaven broke loose.

The Temple's imposing curtain - 60 feet long, 30 feet wide, 4 inches thick and requiring 300 men to lift its estimated 3 to 4 tons - was torn in two. It was like God Himself refused to be contained only in the Holiest place any more, separated from all His people, whom He loved so deeply, and having only annual contact with the priest offering sacrifice for sins; and with the death of His Son once and for all offering the only sacrifice for sin that would be required from now on He roared forth, splitting the barrier from the top to the bottom. God with us.

There was a tremendous earthquake. Graves opened and saints were risen from the dead.

And this was just the start of it!

On the first day of the week, hours before daybreak, Mary Magdalene - the woman who owed her whole life to Jesus - was in the garden where He had been buried. She had made the discovery that the tomb was empty; she went and told the disciples; but, overcome with grief, with the need to be near the last place she had seen Him, she returned to the grave. Peering again into the empty tomb with tear-heavy eyes she didn't even raise her head when a voice said to her "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?"

Mary thought she was speaking to the gardener - who else would be up at that time of the day? - and she begged to be given Jesus' body.

And then He said one word: Mary.

She would have loved Him and believed in His teachings and His forgiveness even if He had remained dead, in the grave.

But the sound of her name coming from His mouth! She knew in that instant that not only did she have a life transformed on this earth, but now she had eternal life in heaven because He was risen.

As she fell before Him in wonder and worship, darkness started to dissipate. Dawn began to break.

And nothing in the history of the world would ever be the same.

1 comment:

  1. I arise today

    Blessed by all things,
    Wings of breath,
    Delight of eyes,
    Wonder of whisper,
    Intimacy of touch,
    Eternity of soul,
    Urgency of thought,
    Miracle of health,
    Embrace of God.

    May I live this day.

    --John O’Donohue (1956-2008)


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