Tenebrae Friday Reflection: The Crowd With Their Clubs and Us With Our Swords

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As I sit writing the sky is blue outside my window.  There are some puffy clouds dotting the horizon which accent the beauty of a nice, Spring day.  That is if you are inside looking out.  Outside is a whole other story.  It is 20 degrees cooler than it was yesterday.  A strong wind gusted throughout the afternoon bringing with it a cold front which returned the chill to the air.  The trees are still waving, showing the last vestiges of a cold, bitter wind.

So too this bright Spring day is also tainted by the darkness of what we ironically, but appropriately call “Good Friday.”  It is a day commemorating the capture of the one who was good.  This good one was arrested.  He was tried.  He was beaten.  He was stripped naked.  He was crucified.

The climax of all this begins in a garden.  Many have portrayed this scene in movies, depicting it as chaotic with a quiet Jesus standing in the middle of it all.  His disciples are fleeing.  One leaves behind his only garment, running away naked.  The crowds are clamoring to arrest whoever they can.  Judas is counting his coins.  Another of Jesus’ disciples draws a sword and starts slashing about.  Jesus remains calm and resolute.

The only words he gives, the only teaching he offers is a question with two sentences.  The sentence and first question read:  “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come with swords and clubs to arrest me?  Every day I was with you teaching in the temple courts, yet you did not arrest me.” (Matthew 26:55)

All it is is one question and one statement and yet again Jesus is fairly incriminating.  With that question and that statement he has again revealed the goats for who they are.  They are cowardly.  They are fickle.  They are trite.  In fact, they are quite ridiculous.  That they came at night to a secluded spot and that they are just hired men, not the authorities themselves, merely sent by the authorities, shows everything about them is absurd.  Swords and clubs??  Really??  For what rebellion?  And if Jesus’ teachings were that dangerous, why not arrest him on the spot instead of letting his harm continue?

This is all quite dumb and Jesus knows it and bluntly says it.

So too, as I have been writing all week, the cross of Christ reveals our absurdity.  We are dumb.  We change our minds at a moment’s notice.  We love God until God won’t do what we want or need.  We betray our friends.  We gossip.  We lie.  We clamor for titles and wealth that unnecessarily complicate our lives.  We worship every new product or movie that flits across our eyes.  We flock to polls to elect false Messiahs by the dozens.  We pledge our allegiance to anything and everything that is not God.  We come with swords and clubs to arrest the Prince of Peace.

Yet, there is a third sentence to Jesus’ retort.  He says, “But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

I hope you hear that third sentence for what it truly represents.  In so many words Jesus said, “But God’s got this!”  It isn’t about us or our evil.  It isn’t even about them and their evil.  It isn’t about what we do.  It is not about how absurd we are.  Instead, God just might use this in a way that the prophets are fulfilled.

It is about this incredible God who is able to take our pettiness, our absurdity, our fickleness and our violent nature and make something great and gorgeous and beautiful with it.  It isn’t about our shortcomings or our weaknesses or our sins.  It is about a God who says, “I see your swords and clubs and I raise you forgiveness, love and grace.”  “I see your stupidity and I raise you the wisdom of love!”  “I see your sin and I raise you sacrificial love!”

“Your swords, clubs, betrayal and denial have all taken place so that the prophets might be fulfilled.”

Then the bad Friday, the dark Friday, the cold Friday becomes the Good Friday.

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