Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Why it must all end in tears

Lent 2 - Year C                                                                                                       
Luke 13:31-35                                                                                    

The verb – thelo (to wish, want or desire) appears three times – twice positively and once negatively - in our short Gospel reading from Luke this Sunday.  Herod desires to kill Jesus.  Jesus desires to gather God’s people in Jerusalem under his wings like a mother hen.  The residents of Jerusalem, however, have no desire to be so gathered.  It’s a bit like watching from a hillside as two cars speed towards each other along perpendicular routes.   “Stop”, you cry, “or something terrible will happen”.  There are shades of Italian opera here – Giacomo desires Lucinda, Lucinda desires Paulo and Paulo is completely uninterested or is distracted or is a fool or is simply not the marrying type.  If your high-school-aged child related a similarly connected string of unrequited love amongst her pals in class you might say to yourself:  My word, this will all end in tears.

The question of the Gospels is this:  How will God win for himself a family in the ministry of Jesus his son? 
·         The stakes, you see, are so high,
·         the power of Jesus’ enemies is so strong
·         and the hearts of the people are so cold and resistant. 

And now Jesus proposes to leave the Galilee and proceed forthwith to the city so long a source of death to prophets.  That impact at the crossroads is certain.  The result of this impossible equation of love will indeed, either by accident or design, be tears.

Have your ears have been open for the last few weeks?  We are full-steam-ahead towards the tears of Holy Week and Good Friday.  In the story of the Transfiguration, which we read together on the last Sunday of Epiphany (Luke 9:28-36), Moses and Elijah were perceived, at either side of Jesus, by the sleepy disciples.  What they discussed was specifically what Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem which was ‘his departure’.  On the first Sunday of Lent readers were sent back to an early moment in the Gospel account (Luke 4:1-13) where Jesus deliberately set aside and rejected the very tools – safety, strength, the gift of kingdoms and acclaim – which would have prevented those tears and guaranteed his domination of the crowds and his welcome by the several hierarchies of his day.  Jesus forswore these means – one after another.  They were not his Father’s gifts.

What we must piece together from the narratives and sayings of the first three Gospels is clearly stated in the Prologue in John at the very outset:  Light [had] come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.  The remedy from the beginning will be Jesus’ self-giving unto death.  He knows himself to be part of a big story and Herod can therefore have no part in it.  Herod's ghastly desire is an empty threat.  Jesus words to him are rightly a rebuke Jesus is aware of the weakness of human beings.  They cannot be led like an army or instructed like a classroom.  His words concerning them are rightly a lament.  They are broken and he must die for them.  He will hold them in his lasting and effective love forever.