Sunday, April 05, 2009

Reflection and revelation

They say Lent is a time when we are to prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of Easter. Yet before the celebration begins, there are the steps to Golgotha that must be retraced. Today I had 2 experiences that reached to my very core. One was a reflection, a reminder; the other, a revelation.

I will present them in the opposite order that I experienced them, as this order seems more "logical."

First, the reflection ...

Our church held a special service for our home bound members this afternoon. The Choir presented its Easter Cantata. One of the songs in the cantata spoke deeply to me. I recall singing it many times and realized quickly that it always stirs me. It is called Ah Holy Jesus. I have reprinted the first two of its four verses below. In particular, I find myself choking back the tears at the second verse.

Verse 1: Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended, that we to judge thee have in hate pretended? By foes derided, by thine own rejected, O most afflicted!

Verse 2: Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee! 'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.

I have always been mystified by persons who do not understand that each of us did, in fact, participate in nailing Jesus to the cross. I think of a "behind the scenes" special I viewed years ago when Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ came out. Gibson reported that he had one "cameo" in the movie ... he is holding the spikes as they are driven into the Lord. Say what you like about his own human frailty and bad behavior that was reported in the gossip sheets a few years back, he understands something important here... Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.

I don't reflect on this truth in order to beat myself up in some sort of masochistic fashion. No, it serves as a backdrop for humility, awe, sorrow and gratitude; sentiments I should strive to experience more than once a year, to be sure.

Now, the revelation ...

Our Pastor read Mark 14 and Mark 15 today for his message. He translated the verses from the original Greek. And because of this, because of his phrasing and inflection, I heard something entirely different from Mark 14:32-36. I have reprinted the verses as I have always experienced them below, from the New International Version:

32They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
35Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Jesus is totally forthright and honest with the Father ... Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. I understand that it grieved him deeply, scripture says to the point of death, as he considered the sacrifice asked of him.

He continues ... Yet not what I will, but what you will. Previously, these words have always registered in my mind as "noble resignation." He resigns himself to the will of the Father. To be sure, this resignation is admirable and remarkable. It is beyond anything I can imagine myself doing, ever.

Yet when the verses were read today (and I confess I don't have them as the Pastor read them) "...but what you will" sounded more like pleading. He absolutely does NOT want the Father to cave in out of pity or compassion. He pleads for God's will to be done, not his own, even if this pleading brings that very cup he shudders to drink from.

What kind of obedience is this that pleads for God's will to be carried out in such a manner? Pleads for his own death, if that is God's will? Do you see how many thousands of miles away from noble resignation this sentiment is? Can you even wrap your mind around such a pleading obedience? I ask myself, have I ever pleaded for God's will in such a manner, when that will would bring untold suffering?

I have been a believer for more than 20 years. I thought I had contemplated and reflected and considered every aspect of the passion and death of Christ imaginable. How shallow. How ignorant. How short-sighted that all these years, I saw noble resignation, almost to the point of thinking, "big whoop," when so much more is there.

These are the thoughts I take with me as I enter the journey of Holy Week.

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