06 March 2013

A moment in the Lenten season

This morning I was struck by a particular verse in the Lenten devotional I am following this year by Walt Wangerin. I was a bit behind, so read three of the "days". All of them dealt to some degree with Jesus' judgement by the Sanhedrin, and what struck me was the "holy silence" he kept in that room until the crucial time juxtaposed with the utter depravity of the actions of those judging Him whom they did not recognize. Wangerin makes clear to the reader that, though we might think of those men as "below us" or that we would have acted markedly differently from them in that situation, the opposite is much more likely. The verse that he paired from John 3 reads:
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.                                                               [verses 19 and 20]
While for many this might sound harsh, one of the principal things that emerges from the Lenten season before Easter (at least as I experience it) is a sort of return to a consciousness of this "holy harshness". What Jesus did wasn't to give us a field of flowers and bunny rabbits and Easter eggs--though God created all things of beauty for our pleasure. He came and was brutally murdered against the better judgement of the very man who could have stopped it, but who was swayed by a crowd of mockers. It is shocking to be reminded of our likeness to those mockers. Originally all created in the Lord's image, He was forced to send one that the majority of His own did not even recognize--despite all kinds of signs and prophecies to that end--to die. Having said this, it is true that at that time there were also many faithful followers amidst Jesus' closest family, friends, and disciples who refused to mock him. But is it not made clear how sinful we are when we reflect upon Peter's denial--this one who had so avidly repeated to Jesus his undying love and alliance across all trials and tribulations, even to death? The irony brings me pause. As the teacher he has sworn his allegiance to is condemned to death by those that could recite the prophecies of His coming by heart, Peter warms his hands by a fire where he denies his master three times in a row.

So: harshness. It is here, there, and everywhere in the story of Jesus' accusation, condemnation, and death. However, we who live so many years after it happened have the luxury of forgetting the harshness for the love that was therein expressed and the victory of the Resurrection. This morning, I am struck to wonder at the "before" of the Easter story, and my participation thousands of years later in the very death of my Lord and the only One who could save me from my sinful ways. He will rise, indeed; but first, He must die the death that I should have done.

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