Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Final thoughts on Easter
Easter has come and gone and typically a few days after the holiday I have stopped thinking about the last few moments leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross. This year has been different. My Bible study has been studying the life of Jesus for ten weeks and now we are just finishing up. Slowly we have made our way through the final week. I have tried to take a different approach to reading the account. Typically I think of it as a story with characters and actions. Straight forward in my thinking I tend to look at the event very matter-of-factly. This time though, I am making an effort to think about Jesus and who he was as a person, as a human being.
It’s not been the easiest task partly because I begin to feel an ache in my soul for the pain Jesus suffered, on my behalf. My own soul is tugged at because I know how deep the emotions were felt because Jesus was human just like me.
After the triumphal entry, a week of teaching then pulling away from the crowds to be with those closest to Him, final intimate moments with His disciples in the upper room and after some last moments alone with God His Father in the garden, the time has come. A crowd comes over and Judas steps up to betray Jesus with a kiss. “but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:48) Can you see Jesus looking straight into Judas’ eyes? Into the soul of one he gave the past three years of His life to? They had shared meals together and journeyed on foot from city to city. They laughed and cried sharing moments that pulled them together into a tight knit group of friends. Now Judas comes so close to Jesus. He is in that intimate space where everything else around fades away. It is just Jesus and Judas. In that intimacy, in the breath of a question Jesus shows sorrow that comes from deep inside Him because the intimacy has become the betrayer.
As fast as a kiss of greeting, the disciples react. A sword is drawn, it flashes through the air then blood is running down the face of the servant of the high priest. In that moment Jesus changes from sorrow for His betrayer to love for His enemy. Jesus taught it over and over again. “But I tell you: Love your enemies…” (Matt. 5:44) “Do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27) Now, in these final moments, Jesus looks upon the man with compassion and demonstrates love for His enemy by healing him with a gentle touch of His hand. I’m sure Jesus looked at the man and saw far beyond the chaos of the garden and the heat of the moment to a broken soul within the man.
Then Jesus addresses the priests and guards who had come for Him. Jesus doesn’t run or fight, He simply asks a question then allows the guards to take Him away. As Jesus looks into the faces of the crowd, He resigns Himself to the will of God. Jesus changes. He knows what is coming and He is prepared to face it full on. He knows this is the only way to save each of the people He has loved on earth and each of us to come in the future. There has to be a sacrifice and Jesus willingly goes with the guards because He is submissive to God’s will.
Simon Peter follows at a distance. His rabbi and close friend is taken to trial. Peter, full of turmoil and disbelief, bends down and warms his hands at a fire. Someone recognizes him and points him out. In fear Peter says “I don’t know Him.”. The rooster crows and Peter looks at Jesus. Across the distance, Jesus turns and looks at Peter right in the eye. In a brief moment, compassion and love flow from Jesus to Peter. Jesus knew this would happen, He told Peter so. But Jesus believed in the strength of Peter’s faith and said “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31) It is beautiful the faith Jesus had in Peter even when he knew Peter would fail. Jesus knew Peter would come back and when Jesus looked at Peter from across the courtyard, He had hope.
In His final moments, Jesus looked at these four people with sorrow, love for an enemy, resignation and hope. So many emotions that God my Father shows to those He loves.