As it does every year, our scriptural journey towards Resurrection brings us first to the cross. And in this account of that ultimate crisis, the Jesus of Luke’s Passion is very distinct from his persona as presented by the other evangelists. In Mark and Matthew, a very human Jesus is abandoned and battling despair. In John, a divine Jesus is self-possessed and in total control throughout his ordeal. In contrast, the Jesus of Luke’s gospel is clearly the Son of God become our brother, struggling then triumphing over doubt and fear. In this week’s gospel, our brother Jesus is tested and tormented while he preserves his serenity by clinging to his mission to serve the will of the Father.
C.S. Lewis captured this duality when he described the Passion as: “The perfect surrender and humiliation were undergone by Christ: perfect because he was God, surrender and humiliation because he was man.” To say this is a difficult concept to understand and accept is the infinite understatement. Why the cross? The human Jesus clearly wished he were somewhere else. The divine Jesus didn’t have to show up. He could have phoned in our redemption. The answer is clearly seen in the informational power of the cross…from an instrument of torture to the transcendent symbol of love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. What evil has ever existed or ever will exist that cannot be totally obliterated by the cross? What sacrilege, what obscenity, what betrayal overshadows the love that hung Jesus on the cross? Christ crucified is the “Big Bang” of God’s grace. The reverberations carry down the centuries to generations yet unborn.
And yet for a moment it all hung by a thread. In Gethsemane, sweating his blood in anticipation of shedding his blood, Jesus asks: Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done. The Father’s answer comes in the form of an angel, who almost like a corner man in a prize fight, gave him strength. The angel helps Jesus to his feet and sends him resolutely forward into the ordeal. While his trials, the scourging, the crown of thorns and the cross, all await, the critical point has been passed. The human and divine natures of Jesus are inextricably bound as one with the will of the Father. The tested Jesus will be the tranquil Jesus, because he is the trusting Jesus. And in the end, he is the triumphant Jesus, who can confidently proclaim: Father into your hands I commend my spirit.
Broken in body, but not in soul, Jesus, our brother, our God, calls us to the cross. The tool of execution has become our ladder to heaven. Both God and Man, Christ died for us that we may have eternal life. We are saved. We are forgiven. We need only ask and accept redemption. Through his life and death Jesus taught us to follow him with conviction and total commitment. And that requires that we forgive, we love and we help others as Jesus has forgiven, loves and helps us. That’s the view from the cross. And it’s beautiful.
Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, the Rev. David Sellery serves as an Episcopal priest that seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, and congregational growth.