We Cannot Measure
How You Heal...
Good Friday - April 3, 2015
12 noon - 3:00 p.m.
Christ Church (Parish) Church, Fredericton, N.B.
The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine,
Mark and Matthew share an aspect of Jesus’ crucifixion that we do not find in the account of either Luke or John. Jesus shared our humanity – our flesh and blood, as the Letter to the Hebrews says – so that he might first destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and second he might free those who all their lives were in slavery by the fear of death.
It is an extraordinary claim – that the one who has the power of death would be destroyed and those who are held in slavery by the fear of death may be freed! And the battle lines are drawn in the Heights of Golgotha. And it is a battle to the death.
Above the battle cry is heard, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Godforsakenness lurks amongst the crosses that punctuate this unholy mount.
But Godforsakenness had visited this Height in the Land known as Moriah before.
In the Book of Genesis it is recorded that Abraham was tested by God. He was told to take his son, his only son Isaac and go to the land of Moriah. There he was to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains God would show him.
In obedience to God’s summons, Abraham did accompany Isaac on a Journey that would have been trod with a ponderously heavy heart. On arriving at the dreadful site the old man and his son went on to the summit together, alone. The brazier with the fire and the wood for the fire were in hand and the youth, the Promise to an old man in his advanced years, asked, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
The day’s events did not turn out as dire as might have been expected. We know the story and can imagine the relief of the old man when he heard the angel of the Lord calling out to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he replied, "Here I am." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Shards are seen to tumble through the eye piece and Golgotha becomes the Place of the Skull. A slight turn of the wrist and now it is Moriah… and now, in the shadows of a darkened Friday in the Month of Nissan a name given by Abraham comes to mind: On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.
The night before Jesus went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Matthew reports that he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Alone in the dark the temptation to escape would have been more than you or I might have resisted. Jesus struggled no less. The anticipation of what was soon to transpire deeply grieved him. But the wheels had been set in motion. And they turned toward the morning. At Supper, the Cup of Blessing had been blessed and passed and consumed. The sacramental imagery of a New Covenant cut and poured into a Chalice – the Promise of a Covenant made, of the restoration of wholeness in the broken lives pressing in on every side. The advance was inexorably leading up a worn path to a Height where God would provide.
Bell captures the sense of the impending dread: but present too is love which tends the hurt we never hope to find.
Such love is evasive, if not an illusion we never hope to find. For Jesus, in prayer in a Garden Glen such love steels the resolve of obedience that places one foot in front of another advancing along a Path as the ascent is made.
No long is the question, “Where is the Lamb for the offering?” The Lamb ascends but the only bleating that is heard is heard in the distance, on another Mount, within the City – preparing for the Passover.
Our world view is flummoxed by the Gospel account. We are content to enjoy the stories of the Nazarene that remind us of his encounters with people throughout Palestine and along the Sea of Galilee. We never tire of retelling episodes that find Jesus teaching the curious and feeding the hungry and curing the sick. We recount the stories happily and risk thinking our retelling is sufficient for what he purposed in life for us.
No struggle was evident in Galilee or Nazareth or Jericho or Jerusalem – until now. Confrontation with the religious order should not be mistaken as anything more than we might overhear in a yeshiva where the nuances of the nature of God may well be argued and debated. But from his Circumcision on his Eighth Day and his Presentation in the Temple on his Fortieth Day to his last breath on the Cross Jesus – Yeshua – was a Jew, the Promise of Israel.
The focus of our Faith, the locus of our world view is found in the darkness surrounding the Height where God did provide.
In that provision is despair, weighed and measured. In that provision is anguish and isolation. None are strangers to us, and certainly not to Jesus. Indeed he frees those of us who all our lives are enslaved by the fear of death. And he become the Ram, caught in a thicket.
2011 Come and Follow Me
2014 The Folly of God