Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday in Passion Week

Jeremiah 18:18-23 / John 12:10-36

In the film The Passion of the Christ (2004), the audience sees what no other characters in the film see, save Jesus himself and, for one brief moment along the Via dolorosa, the Blessed Mother. What we see, as the others do not, is that the whole drama of the Passion, from the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, through the trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, from the pillar of the scourging to atop the hill of Calvary, has been a contest between the Son of God and the Evil One. While every one else in the drama, from the most public persons like Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, to those who remain to us unknown, like the soldier who scourged Jesus or the Jews who left the Sanhedrin in disgust, must take full responsibility for his role in the betrayal, suffering, and death of the Lord, none of them ever really understood what it was all about. Even the most wicked of them, it turns out, were not Christ's true antagonists but rather among those for whom he suffered.

While this way of presenting the Passion is only one interpretation, it is not without its echoes in the Scriptures. As prefigured in the suffering of Jeremiah, we see Jeremiah's opponents speak as though Jeremiah is ultimately unimportant, that things could go on as usual even if he were no longer around, ultimately and tragically ignorant of the doom which awaits Jerusalem from without, a doom against which Jeremiah had been sent to warn them. Even Jeremiah is set off track, hurling his invectives and curses not against those who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, but against his fellow Jews, their children, their wives and husbands, and their young sons. This theme of missing the point, of not seeing what and who is important, is all the more sharpened in Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The chief priests begin to turn their murderous plots against Lazarus as well as Jesus. The Gentiles who come to worship, and Philip and Andrew who plead their cause, think that Jesus' coming to Jerusalem is just one more opportunity for him to teach, one more chance to show up the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees. They are all of them, every one of them, wrong.

Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. As in Mel Gibson's movie, so here in the Gospel Jesus is clear: the moment of his glory, his hour for which he had so long been waiting, putting off requests even from the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, the hour to be glorified by his Father, that is to say the hour of his terrible suffering and death on the Cross, has come. This hour, the hour of his glory, are not, and never were, about settling arguments with the Pharisees, the scribes, and the priests, were never about setting forth an answer to every question posed by questioning Jew or curious Gentile, never about any of these things. Of course, these things he did, and they have their right and proper role in the work of salvation. Still, when it comes down to it, the hour of Jesus' glory if the hour of his victory over the prince of this world, over the Accuser, the Evil One, the Devil.

As we begin Holy Week, we would do well to remember from whose power we have been delivered, whose downfall marked the glory of the Son of God. We would do well to note that all of our earthly adversaries, even those with the most hardened of hearts who will us the gravest ill, are also, perhaps even more so, the intended beneficiaries of the saving work of Christ as we are. This insight is, in the face of opposition or indifference, hard to hold in our minds. We might, then, pay heed to Jesus' own words to the crowd: Yet a little while the light is among you. Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness overtake you not; ... Whilst you have the light, believe in the light: that you may be the children of light.

Let your right hand, we beseech Thee, O Lord, guard Thy people who call upon Thee, and duly instruct and purify them: that by this present consolation they may be encouraged to look forward to further benefits.

No comments: