Belatedly- once again due to technical difficulties, here is the gist of what I preached from last Sunday morning…
Jesus, just before his arrest goes out to pray with his friends- as usual… but this wasn’t a usual evening- his mood wasn’t the usual one… this came at the end of a week of intense teaching and verbal sparring with the religious authorities which had left them feeling threatened, wordless, out-thought and out-taught. At times Jesus had spoken against them, at times side-stepped their traps, at times astonished them with his clarity and insight… And his disciples had been with him through it all.
As the week drew to a close the plot to arrest and get rid of Jesus developed, finally drawing in one of his friends- Judas, who agrees to betray Jesus to the soldiers. Was Judas greedy? Did he hate Jesus? Was he possessed for a moment by a spirit of madness? Did he misunderstand Jesus’ intentions and think his actions would bring about the kingdom?
Whatever the cause, on this evening, as Jesus and his friends, tired but caught up with the tide of events, made their way up the hill, to their usual spot… Judas was not with them- in Luke’s account his departure from the table is a quiet one, but no doubt Jesus had noted it. And so, as the disciples talk, Jesus walks, carrying the knowledge of what is already happening on his shoulders. He leaves them, asking them to pray ‘that you would not fall into temptation’ (meaning what? That they too wouldn’t betray him? That they might not deny him or flee from his side, or just that they’d be able to stay awake?)
And so… he prayed… which was nothing unusual… but this time in anguish… this time his closeness to his Father didn’t bring comfort or reassurance… only anguish, sorrow, tears… and then the arrest, the trial and the beatings, the humiliation, followed finally by the slow public execution by crucifixion.
We cannot fully appreciate what it must have meant for Jesus to go to the cross. It meant more to him than for any of us to give something up- this wasn’t simply about stepping aside from his close relationship with his Father, and nor was it about the pain that he knew was to come, or the sense of abandonment as his disciples left him… In part it might have been because he knew it was not only inevitable, but it was also what he needed to do, and it was only happening because of his acceptance of it- Jesus went to the cross willingly- not as one who wants to suffer or die, but one who knows what will be gained, what will be the final outcome.
And on the 3rd day- Mary came to see the tomb, and instead of a guard and a corpse she saw an angel and the risen Christ- confused and filled with joy, the women worshipped and then obeyed him. All the promises were made true, the cross had not been the end but the doorway to salvation.
The cross and the resurrection were more important to them than the right kind of behaviour, or doing what had always been done. And so we need to reflect on how important the cross, the resurrection and the words of Jesus are to us…
As we gather here, as we go from here… what does it mean to us… how is the way we live defined by and affected by the resurrection of Jesus? To what extent is our worship related to our belief?
I’ve been looking at the beginning of Acts this week… lots of amazing things recounted in there, have a look yourself if you have a chance.