As we have explored in previous gospels this year, Jesus is all-man and all-God… both natures simultaneously occupying one body and one soul. This week the human Jesus comes face to face with human mortality. In time it is a situation we will all face…hopefully at a very advanced age, surrounded by loved ones and eased into a gentle passage. That’s not what confronts Jesus. He knows that his death is imminent. It will be brutal and tortuously protracted. He will be betrayed and abandoned, humiliated and ridiculed. In his agony he will be made a laughing stock. Naturally, Jesus, our human brother, is tormented by this impending ordeal. He reflects that: Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour?’
Through it all Jesus remains faithful to the will of the Father. He lives with that purpose. He knows who sent him and why. At age twelve he told Mary and Joseph that he: Must be about my Father’s business. On the banks of the Jordan, as he begins his public life the Father affirms: You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. In his early miracles even the unclean spirit cries out: You are the Holy One of God. In successive sermons, through his miracles and then spectacularly at the Transfiguration, Jesus reveals his purpose and his power.
In the gospels of these last few weeks, he has been filling in more and more of the blanks for us. He is the Lamb of God. He is the Temple that will be torn down and rebuilt in three days. He is God’s love incarnate, sent that we: May not perish but may have eternal life.
And now the cross beckons. His time has come. He knows that he will be lifted up in sacrifice. But he sees past the torment. He knows he will be cut down like a grain of wheat. But he also sees the bountiful harvest of his sacrifice… successive generations of Christians answering his call, witnessing his love. Like Jesus, we too must confront God’s purpose for us. Clearly we were not baptized into the Body of Christ to let his body wither from our neglect. We are charged to be disciples. We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
How does that fit with our plans and priorities? Do we even grasp that God has a purpose for us? Or are we just advanced, task-oriented primates, grazing our way through life, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain? What we do defines what we are. Christians follow Christ. If that is what we are, then that is what we must do. The Body of Christ is not a social club where attendance and dues are optional. In Acts, Paul plainly lays out his life’s purpose and ours: My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing …the work of telling others the Good News of God’s wonderful kindness and love.
While none of us has the inspired gift to preach as Paul did, our lives can do the preaching for us. Live today with that purpose. Leave everyone you see with more love for having seen you. Take every opportunity to be kind, to be courteous, to be caring. Don’t be too busy to listen. Don’t be too hurried to help. Don’t be too timid to proclaim him.
Too busy for God? Too many obligations? Take him with you on every errand. Make this day a continuous prayer to the glory of God. He’s got a universe to run, but he’s not too busy for you.
Jesus was not lifted up on the cross so we could skate selfishly into heaven. Our salvation is a gift, but it is not all-take and no-give. We are not just the beneficiaries of Christ’s passion; we are the ongoing instruments of his sacred mission. The purpose that brought Jesus to the cross is our purpose now. Like Jesus we know who sent us and why. His love is our legacy and our reason for being.