the penultimate WORD
Series 1999 - March Canon Jim Irvine
Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.


Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together.
Isaiah 50: 8 New Revised Standard Version

It is the day after Shabbot and there is excitement in the air. Passover is only a few days off. And pilgrims are beginning to press in to the Holy City to keep the Feast. The road entering the Walled City from the north is quiet, at first. Then there is a commotion: someone near the Gate notices a small band approaching. As they come closer, voices drift over the warm, dry air. Shouts of Hosanna! can be heard. Voices we know now blend with them. Some are waving branches of palm. Yes, we can see that clearly, now. Some of our number run out to join them, and as they get nearer, they recognize the distinct accent. They are from Galilee! Inquiring of vanguards, others of us learn that it is Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, and his disciples. And others come forward, leaving the protection of the shade. Jesus! Others have spoken of him, and of his teaching, and his miracles, especially his miracles. Perhaps today there will be a miracle! We draw near him in hope… and we stand hopefully, together.

And the Suffering Servant asks, "Who will contend with me in hope and anticipation? Let us stand up together."

Now it is the day before Shabbot and our hope turns to fear: there is caution in the air. Strangers gaze into strangers’ eyes with intrigue and suspicion. Something has gone wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Now, the Galileans have disbursed and others have begun to gather around Jesus. There is excitement, but it’s different! It is angry! Now the cry turns to Crucify him! But now we draw near him in fear… and we stand fearfully, together.

And the Suffering Servant asks, "Who will contend with me in this pain and suffering? Let us stand up together."

And now it is the day after Shabbot. Again. Eight days ago things were so different. We were excited. I know that I was excited. The stories about Jesus and his travels had ignited my imagination. With the occupational force of the Imperial Guard standing guard, I had hoped that things might have changed. Perhaps, I had dared to hope, this was our deliverer. The new Moshe promised! This Shabbot would see our deliverance! But our hopes unravel before our eyes. Just when we think that the worst has happened, we learn now that his body has been taken. Mary tells us that she has seen him, this morning at dawn. Can this be true? And in our grief we discover him here, among us. Unquestionably, we are drawn near him in curiosity… and we stand confused, together.

Yet, as on that first day, he seems now drawn nearer to us… than we to him. Our running out to greet him was little more than our response to his seeking us out. And having sought us out, and having found us, he chose to visit us. For our part, for our lack of hope, and the denial of our fear, we are as distant as we were that first day, hiding in the shade of the City Wall when the Galilean approached us for the first time.

We knew him to be from Galilee because of his accent. The Suffering Servant asks, "Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together."

The Galilean graciously invites us out from our shadows and to embrace our hopes and fears. We run out to greet Jesus with hope in our voice and fear in our step. And joining him, we discover his hope in his step and the fear in his voice asking if this cup may pass him by.

Jesus gives us heart to engage him as the source of our lives, and, in spite of all, to stand with him.

Copyright © 1999 James T. Irvine


Series 1999