Have you ever wondered that his post-resurrection body still had nail marks in his hands and feet? That there was still a spear wound in his side? Why didn’t God, when he was drawing the breath of life back into Jesus human flesh, just wave his fingers and erase those scars, “good as new”? Wouldn’t it be better, less upsetting, more hopeful, to just ignore the recent unpleasantness and move on to the Easter brunches and egg hunts and chocolate overdoses without the bloody scabs of torture staring us in the face?
Throughout Lent we are called to examine, to look honestly at our lives and habits, to offer to God’s judgement our ways of relationship and our rhythms of life. This week it all comes to a head, and rather than sit at home in our little prayer closets, we’re called this week to join as a community in our examination, in our looking honestly together at ourselves and our lives.
The parade of Holy Week, beginning out in the courtyard as we did this morning, continues on Thursday as we imagine that we are invited into the upper room where Jesus feasts with his disciples and then to the garden where he brings his closest companions to pray. On Friday we journey with Jesus to the cross and to the site of his death, to face what our sins do to those whom we love, to those who are innocent of evil, to those who do not deserve suffering and death at our hands. On Saturday night, we join Jesus’s path out of death, we gather again in the courtyard, in a garden, to sing and pray around the new fire that God gives in the resurrection of his Son. We will read of God’s path, walking with His people, throughout the Old Testament, we will baptize a child into the new life of Jesus Christ, and we will celebrate the first feast, the first Eucharist of Easter and of the resurrection.
Whatever has brought you to this wilderness, whatever brokenness and anger and guilt and shame and messiness have traced your steps here, “do not” “consider the things of old.” God is not about rubbing our noses in our mistakes or berating us over our foolishness. Whenever you realize and recognize that you are in the wilderness, surely that is enough suffering -- to know that you are parched, to feel, finally, that you are clumsy and tired, without strength and without a way out for yourself. And into that realization, into that opening of the eyes of your heart, God comes.
The apostle Paul is trying to tell us something, show us something, that by definition is impossible for us to see with our own eyes. He’s not just telling us to see something in a different light; from a different point of view; to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That’s hard enough but with effort it can be done. No: Paul is telling us that we are to regard “no one from a human point of view.” Let alone trying to see things from the perspective of another person—he’s saying, the problem is the human point of view! The perspective of human beings living in the world—that’s what’s all wrong, he says. You see, there is now a new creation—everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
What would happen if there was someone who knew and understood me so well that nothing he said about me was unfair or untrue? What if there was someone who understood me better than I understand myself?
What if there was someone who confronted me in my sin not to tear me down, but to show me that what I’m doing will wind up destroying everything that really matters in my life?
Jesus’ message is for everyone -- not just the prostitutes or the notorious sinners, but also, as Scripture describes Joseph of Arimathea, those who are “seeking the kingdom of God.” Jesus doesn’t only spend his time in drug dens or brothels, but also with the lady in the nursing home whose Bible’s pages are wearing away at the corners from use. Jesus doesn’t only spend his time on street corners or with the lepers, but also around family dinner tables and snuggling with kids on his lap.
But even more messy, we’re not called to just relinquish, or abandon those things on the altar, not just throw them at the feet of God and walk away. Because what do we do every time we gather together? We bring up our offerings -- not just the offering plates, but the very bread and wine that becomes Christ’s body and blood -- those offerings are blessed by God through the hands of the priest on God’s own altar, and then what happens to them? What happens to that bread and wine, and what happens to the money in the alms basins?
We can call this glory because God in Christ walked the way of the cross and found in it not an end, not defeat, but instead walked through it to the joy of Easter morning. If there were no Easter morning victory then again: Peter would be right. It would be better to avoid the pain and the suffering that comes along with loving our enemies, and seeking reconciliation with people who have done us wrong and frankly don’t deserve it. Isn’t that what Peter said? “Forget them! They don’t care about you; they want to kill you! Tell them off and leave them alone. If you try to love them you’ll just wind up getting hurt.”
If Jesus were not raised from the dead, that would make a whole lot of sense. It’s easier all things considered to just give up on people…
But that’s not what Jesus did to us. He could have stayed up on that mountain. He didn’t have to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die at our hands. He could have stayed up there and waited for us to come to him, and to hell with everyone else. But that’s not what he did. He went down from the mountain. He went to the cross. He came to us. And that’s where he revealed his glory.