Tuesday, March 22, 2016

'Now my soul is troubled': a reflection for Tuesday in Holy Week

May my words be in the name of the Father, & of the Son, & of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

We read this evening of some Greeks who wish to meet with Jesus. By Greeks here we may presume some Jews of the diaspora who are living in Greece, or perhaps some Greek speaking city of the Empire, who have come to Jerusalem for the great festival soon to take place. They have heard of the great signs performed by the one many are thinking might be the Messiah; and realising that they have come close to him they seek to arrange a meeting.
But Jesus is apparently unresponsive to their request. Instead he begins to speak of his suffering and death. 'Now my soul is troubled,' he says. Well might it be troubled. He knows precisely the fate that awaits him in only a very few days now. Dark forces conspire against him. Soon he will be betrayed by one of those closest to him. He will be arrested, beaten, put on trial, tortured further, condemned to death, and then executed in the most brutal fashion known to the world – death on a cross. Why would he not be troubled? He may be God incarnate; but he is also fully a man … and even the bravest man experiences trepidation at the thought of such a future. He would hardly be human if he did not.

However, even though he is rightly troubled, he does not seek to avoid what awaits him. After all, all he would need to do is leave the city. It would not be difficult for him to avoid his fate. We read how easy it would be in tonight's reading, which ends by telling us that after he had finished speaking 'he departed and hid from them.' Despite all the crowds, all the people hanging on his every word, those wishing to see him, hear him, touch him, when he wills all he has to do is walk away and suddenly he is hidden from them. It would be no more difficult a task for him to depart Jerusalem altogether; and all that troubles him would be at an end.

But this is something that he does not do. More, he will not even ask the Father to save him from this hour, the time of his suffering and death. It is for this reason he has come into the world – and he will neither disobey the Father nor will he abandon us to our fate; for of course if he will not suffer and die, then we can not be saved by his death on the cross.

We should pause and wonder, at this point, why it is that these dark forces gather together to bring about his death. It is important, I think, not to be so caught up in the familiarity of the narrative as to cease to wonder at the actions that take place. Jesus is a good man. His teaching is profound. He has worked many great signs. Yet consider their response to his raising of Lazarus from the dead – they conspire to kill him also so as to remove the proof of what Jesus can do. Why behave in so wicked a fashion? Indeed, how can they plan such objectively wicked deeds – to conspire against a good man, to bribe a follower to betray him, to procure false testimony against him, to beat him in contravention of their own laws, to seek his agonising death from the hands of foreigners, and to threaten mayhem and riot if the Romans will not give them what they want? Deep questions – too deep to be answered in detail tonight. Suffice it to say that evil will always seek to extinguish what is good; and the very evil actions we think of here are being contemplated against the greatest of goods – God himself made man.

All this should be a source of shame for us. Christ did, in no way, seek to avoid the consequences of his obedience to the Father. He could have run from his enemies; he could have sought some compromise with them that would have spared his life. But he did not do so. Because that would have meant not passing on the true faith to men in all its fullness. But what of us? How often we run from the fray; how often we seek some middle-ground with the world; how often we betray our Saviour, just as surely as Judas did, for the sake of a quiet life and the approval of a world that the more we compromise the more it will seek for us to give up.


But let us return, as we end, to those Greeks who sought Jesus; and his reaction to their request to meet with him that was seemingly so unresponsive. Yes, they sought him; but they were part of the great multitude that would soon turn on him, and cry for his crucifixion. Perhaps it was that knowledge that prompted him – seemingly out of nowhere – to begin speaking of his death. Tonight, let us pray that we will not be like them: claiming to seek Jesus one minute and casting him aside the next. Let us pray instead that we will try, hard as it is for us, to be like Jesus. Obedient to the Father, even unto death; and stalwartly refusing to be party to all that is evil in the world, no matter how much it may seem to be to our advantage. Amen. 

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