“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles. And they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit upon Him, and kill Him; and after three days He will rise.”
We are now entering our final week of Great and Holy Lent. The Church today reminds us that we are not far from the climax of the story of our salvation. Before long we will again be reminded of God’s goodness towards mankind. We will again be reminded of the way that God has worked and continues to work to bring the human race to life, true life, and to peace with one another and with Him.
Just as we hear the gospel and we understand that the Church is preparing us for the whirlwind of events that will happen. We also understand that Our Lord Jesus is preparing His twelve disciples for what is to come. Yet we see that even after teaching them privately and attempting to prepare them for what was to come, what was to befall Him, they really never understand. Do we understand?
Do we understand the magnitude of this story which is central to our Christian faith? Do we understand the ramifications of the Creator of life choosing to voluntarily lay down His life as a ransom for many? Do we understand that the Lord Jesus had every opportunity to escape such a fate? The Lord wasn’t captured against His own free will. He chose to become a prisoner, He chose the mocking and the scourging. He chose to be spit upon and to be treated like dirt. He chose by His own free will to be put to death by those whom He had given existence and life.
This past week I read about one of the technology billionaires. He was interviewed and said that he was afraid of what artificial intelligence might do in the future. He envisioned that it was possible that one day the computers and robots that we have created would turn on the human race. He doesn’t know this to be true but he speculates that it is a possibility. I could not help but think about God’s mercy towards the human race. He fully understood that we would turn against Him. He knew this even before He formed the world. He knew that we would rebel and choose a life that was actually death because it was detached from Him and He is the source of life. He knew that we would choose false gods and that those gods would take many forms. He knew that we would so fully and completely turn against Him that we would not be satisfied by merely ignoring Him. He fully and completely understood that even those whom He called His own people would betray Him and sentence Him to death.
We talk about love. What manner of love is this that the Father of Our Lord God and savior has for each of us? What manner of love does God demonstrate towards us? He doesn’t punish us because of our rebellion. He doesn’t change His mind towards us because He knows that we will turn viciously against Him. He freely allows us to do what we will to Him, so that He may demonstrate His love towards us even more fully. He will accept death at the hands of His creation, our hands, so that He might pour out His life on us. Can we imagine any scenario where someone would react to such injustice and abuse with so much kindness, mercy and forgiveness? Yet this is precisely the gospel of Jesus Christ. God loved us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
As we draw near to Holy Week we should take a few moments to reflect and meditate on this amazing Messiah, this Christ who loves each of us so dearly that He is willing to accept the worst that we have to offer in order to give us the best of what belongs to Him. He willingly takes our punishment, our disrespect, our dishonor and if these were not bad enough, He chooses to also take our physical death. In return He lifts up the human race and brings us honor, glory, dignity, and immortality through the divine nature which He shares with us, not because we deserve it, but because He desires that we would know Him and unite with Him more fully.
As we reflect on what is to come let us also examine ourselves and see whether we have raised our love and our faith to this standard that has been put forth for us to follow and to imitate. The compassion of our Lord is not simply something for us to observe. We have to enter into this compassion by following the way of Christ. As St. Silouan of Mt. Athos said “Unless you have love for your enemy, you do not know God.” May the love of God penetrate the darkness of our hearts as we boldly finish the course of the fast and prepare for the saving and life-giving passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ….to Him be the Glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.