10 April 2022 at Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Isaiah 50, 4-7 + Psalm 22 + Philippians 2, 6-11 + Luke 22,14 – 23,56
In much of Luke’s Gospel, Jerusalem is not so much a place as it is the destiny of all God’s children. It is why Jesus was so intent on going there in spite of all the threats and danger the journey posed for him. His entry into Jerusalem which we commemorate today is the culmination of his life’s work. It is the fulfillment and the end, and he knew that as he rode into town. He knew he was riding to his death, and that only through death would he ever make it home to the Father.
In Luke’s typical dramatic style, this last week of life for Jesus is set in several “acts” the first of which is this procession which began way back in Chapter 9 when just after the Transfiguration, Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem”. Now with carefully chosen words Luke tells us that Jesus was “ascending” to Jerusalem. He arrives on a borrowed ride. It is a pauper’s throne, and the people are singing what the Angels sang at his birth. Don’t miss that clever Lukan detail.
Every one of the evangelists tell us that the crucifixion was not a disaster that struck down Jesus, but a carefully chosen destiny. Jesus did not die a victim of plotting adversaries. He sacrifices himself in obedience for the sake of all who have been disobedient. He dies fulfilling the will of his Father for the sake of those who did not follow the will of the Father from the very beginning. The disobedience and refusal of Adam and Eve is now set right.
Again, as with every important moment in the life of Jesus, he goes to pray. Before his Baptism, before his Transfiguration, and once again in the garden he prays. This time instead of a voice from the heavens, an angel comforts him. In Luke, angels appear frequently. But this time, God is silent. There is no voice, no cloud, no sound at all. It is as if God would give his son some space. It is as though he needs time to accept the will of the Father he has so often spoken of. Christ could have escaped, but then there would be no escape for us.
While we listen to the Passion being proclaimed today and on Friday, we must not stand and listen nor just wait to speak our lines. We must learn from the last and best lesson we are given by this Rabbi from Nazareth. We can learn from him how to face, accept, and embrace what some might think of as disasters and tragedies. We can learn how to suffer, how to be betrayed, attacked, misunderstood, and even abandoned. We can grow to understand that this is how love is expressed, how hope is seized, and how eternal life is secured. When God seems silent and darkness is about to overcome us, we can learn from Jesus Christ that the Father’s love for us never fails, and no matter what tragedy or disaster may come, there will be an Easter for every one of us who remember the words he spoke: Do This in Memory of Me.