It is impossible for us to give, unless we have first received. That is obvious from the moment we’re born. It’s only because others have fed, clothed, nurtured and taught us that we can love others in turn. Human parents can fail us. But, as beings made by God, we also receive a love that is unceasing and unconditional.
As Holy Week begins, much church life—the clubs and councils, the committees and campaigns–falls silent. A space is created, so we can wait with Christ. We wait together—as he prays and sweats blood in Gethsemane, at the foot of his cross, in the garden on that first Easter morning. We wait, because our salvation is a divine gift, not a human achievement.
Powerlessness, suffering and injustice are experiences the human race knows very well. And they lie at the heart of these stories. Jesus is revealed, not as a far-off ruler, but as someone who is with us in the midst of these things.
He’s a human—and so bears these experiences alongside us. But he’s also divine—and so his bearing of judgment, hatred and violence also vanquishes them.
Jesus becomes our sacrifice. He’s scapegoated by humans unnerved and disappointed by his message. Some are unnerved because his truth-telling challenges their lies and their manipulation. Others are
disappointed, having expected Jesus to be a very different kind of Messiah.
They thought he would impose God’s Kingdom at the end of a sword. But, as Jesus tells his disciples, those who live by the sword die by the sword. A Kingdom imposed by violence and fear could not be God’s Kingdom.
The Kingdom Jesus brings in is one where domination, violence and judgment are conquered by self-giving love. This is his new creation, born in the water and the blood which flow from his side (John 19.34). As we are reminded in the Maundy Thursday liturgy, we taste and see this new creation both in the sacramental life of the church (as we celebrate the gift of Holy Communion) and in practical acts of love (as we re-enact Jesus' washing of the disciples' feet).