SUNDAY’S READINGS | April 10, 2022
After hearing the long Passion narrative, the congregation will feel and know that something extraordinary has happened, beyond all imagination and knowing. Tremulous emotions of guilt and sorrow and loss will fill any space into which the preacher dares to speak. So, like the prescribed silence after the breaking of the bread, a moment of reverent silence is meet and right. Here we see not bread standing in for his body, but his physical body, beaten and bloodied, reviled and hung from a cross.
The story of Jesus, from beginning to end, is a story of love for the world. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). He became what we are, assuming our human nature, and this required his full acceptance of mortal existence and the depravity to which it is prone. Though he was without sin, he stood in the place of sin and bore its punishment — not, as is often said, to appease the wrath of his Father, but to exhaust the power of sin and death over us. The power of sin and death converge on Jesus, seeking to destroy and exterminate his life, all of which occurs through human agency. The perfect life of Christ, then, reveals the depravity of human beings.
The prophet Isaiah describes a suffering servant whom we well recognize. “I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting” (Isa. 50:5-6). When prophesying reaches fulfillment, the image is sharp and graphic. They hold him, mock him, and beat him. They blindfold him and pour out insults upon him. They treat him with contempt and vest him with a royal robe. They flog him and crucify him in a place called the Skull. He is the abject human being subject to human beings. He is the centrifugal point to which all sin and evil converge. Surely this will stamp him out.
In all this, Jesus listens to the voice and will of his Father. “Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear.” Jesus hears and speaks the words of the Father amid his Passion. He says, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). To the repentant thief, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Crying out with a loud voice, he says, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
The world goes dark at midday as the light of the world seems extinguished. What cannot be seen but is suggested by the tearing of the temple curtain is the release of the divine presence into the whole world. In the death of Jesus, darkness is upon the face of the deep. Over this darkness, God will speak again, creating a new world, one in which there is forgiveness, a paradise to hope for, and peace at the last, in the loving hands of the Father.
Look It Up: Luke 23:50-56
Think About It: Another way — he asked for the body of Jesus, took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb. Love the body of Jesus.