Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Wednesday

Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm 70
Hebrews 12:1-3
John 13:21-32

The first days of Holy Week have given us examples of people responding according to their human nature.

Nothing to see here, folks. It’s just the way we are.

Or maybe there is something to see. Each Scripture today reflects a person responding to (often brutal) cruelty in exactly the opposite way our human nature would encourage. When threatened or attacked, our central brain judges the situation and gives us the option of fight or flight while prepping our muscles for an energetic burst. Christ called us to be different and each of today’s passages demonstrates the possibilities.

The writer in Isaiah proudly affirms that he gave his back for beating and held his face up so his tormentors could pluck his beard. The speaker gives no reason why he is being attacked, but confesses that because God is with him, all will be right in the end; there is no insult or injury that can overcome the blessing of God. His confidence in his right place overcame the base instincts to escape his situation.

In Hebrews the author steels his courage with the thought of all who have gone before. As surely as they were a force for encouragement, he quickly turns to Jesus, the first to  take the path. He recognizes Jesus’s willingness to adopt all of human frailty to overcome the barrier between God and humankind: sin. In those moments of ultimate humanity, Christ did not change the outcome to avoid embarrassment. If anything, that moment served to magnify the victory.

The passage in John recounts one of the latter scenes from the upper room where Jesus was completing the passover dinner with his apostles. When he announced that one of them would betray him, the passage makes it sound like the room was in stunned silence as they eye each other up and down suspiciously. Finally the fiery one, Simon Peter, asks the obvious question: who? Although Jesus answers him, it does not appear that he nor anyone in the room fully understood Jesus when he told how he would identify the traitor. Instead when he tells Judas to go, the others assume it is to get some necessity or do some task with the poor. Even if they had realized Judas was the one, they were not prepared for the degree of betrayal that was coming despite Jesus repeatedly telling them. Jesus, though, did know, but took no action to stop it.

The passages prior to today focused on those who were apart from Jesus reacting to the situation around them and doing a good job of reflecting our human nature. Today, the passages considered individuals in the right place to God. Rather than react to the situation, they handled they managed each incident with the calm assurance that comes from getting faith right.