It is Holy Week. For us urban dwellers in the New Jerusalem, citizens of the Kingdom of God, members of the Body of Christ it is the most holy time to reflect on the foundation of our faith; that which it is all about – the Cross of Jesus.
As all of humankind we ARE because God IS, but different from the rest of mankind, children of God ARE alive and powerful because God IS on a cross.
The use of the present tense might fall strange on the ear. One of the marvels of our human existence is our captivity in the counting of time. God is outside time, above it. He sees all in what we would call a moment. It is one of the most glorious and majestic attributes of our eternal Father. For God everything is NOW in our time-language and therefore He sees himself (Jesus in a human body) on the Cross this very moment.
Rejoice, children of the King! Our God died and paid the price. He lives and in him we live resurrected from the dead works of a cursed earth. He lives in us by the Holy Spirit and works in us according to the power in us, greater and beyond anything we could ever think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
We live in an evil, broken world. We can never deny our circumstances or news feed and in that we have ample reason to feel negative and discouraged. Cruelty, tragedy, murder and bloodshed are all around. Where is God? Is this the world that a good God created?
We know full well that our Father, the Source of Goodness and Beauty had not intended this hellhole for his perfect created loveliness. He works through his Kingdom to redeem and restore. It does not always feel or look as if we in the Kingdom are on the winning side. Evil is in your face, blatantly imposed on society and driven from the fires of fury and rage from a conquered enemy. Many years ago David Wilkerson, the author of The Cross and the Switchblade, prophesied the “garbage cans” of hell being dumped on earth. I often think of that when I feel overwhelmed by wickedness, dread, rudeness, destruction, and shameless immorality.
Just one glance on history would confirm the presence of all we experience today in some or other form right through the story of humankind. It is also true that the presence of God’s people, the true Church, always has been the counterforce in the face of evil and ruin, even when human organizations called churches, were part of the bloodshed and injustice.
Our Gospel, the good news, the message of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, is powerful to save. We have everything we need to bring full redemption to a needy, hurting world. The intensity of evil that we experience is a reaction on the mighty move of the Gospel in the world. God saves and redeems, but one does not read it in the headlines.
The time of Passover is chosen by the cycle of the moon. It is always full moon and somewhat light, even in the darkness of the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden was relatively small – a few olive trees and an oil press to make olive oil.
The Bible says a detachment of soldiers accompanied Judas to the garden that night. According to the commentaries this could mean at the very least about two hundred soldiers. Add the officers of the chief priests and a few Pharisees, with weapons, lanterns and torches. Maybe they came prepared to fight the disciples and to seek a fleeing Jesus in dark nooks and crannies.
They were not prepared for the course of events.
Then Jesus said to the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:52)
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.
Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John18:4-6)
When Jesus stepped forward and introduced himself, He used the same words that Moses heard when he asked God who He is: I AM. (Exodus 3:14)
The reaction was forceful. They drew back and fell to the ground.
Could we focus on this image this Passover-time? The power of the words of God from the mouth of God. I AM – the King of the universe.
Can you “see” your enemy on the ground before Jesus? Just how had those moments of confusion and stunned shock played out? As it is written one could miss the dramatic and profound impact on the people there. One could just glance over it and read on to the following question of Jesus where He repeated his identity. I am sure it took some time for everyone to stand up and dust themselves coming to terms with what just happened and continue with the arrest.
Surely the impact of those moments in the encounter with Jesus, could not leave everybody indifferent as to the power and regal bearing of this Man. There is so much that is not written. It is exactly as John says that everything about Jesus could not be confined to all the books in the world. (John 21:25)
For us that turn aside and look deeper, the divinity of the Person of Jesus shines through. We receive the message so that our faith grows into a tree, planted by the River of Life, with no fear of drought and heat. (Jeremiah 17:8)
We have all we need. God on the Cross, God by the Tomb alive, God in us. I AM – majesty of all of heaven – in our hearts by his Breath, the Holy Spirit. Praise God. He makes a river in the desert and a road in the wilderness. He will do something new today. (Isaiah 43)
Looking superficially and fast, we will see nothing. We look up to the Cross to find the Counsellor of Revelation (3:18). He will give us the eye salve to heal our vision for the invisible so that we can believe the impossible, overcome the obstacles and reign with him – NOW.
He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.