The Harrowing of Hell, 14th century (source)
“When one door closes another opens,” goes an old and popular saying. But what about that time in between, after one door closes but before another opens? What do we do then? As a friend of mine once said, “It’s hell when you are waiting in the hallway.” That’s where we are today. The door on Good Friday has closed. Jesus is dead. The door on Easter has not yet opened. The tomb is sealed and guarded. This is Holy Saturday, in-between time, tomb time.
Many, perhaps most, will not remember or celebrate this day, but, at some point, we all live this day. We all come to the Holy Saturday of our life, the hell of our life, and it always involves a death of some kind: the death of loved one, the death of a relationship, the death of a dream. Regardless of how it comes about someone or something has died and all the doors remain closed. Continue reading
So what does it all mean? What difference does the crucifixion make? Does God love us more because Jesus died on the cross? Are we somehow more acceptable, more tolerable, to God because Jesus suffered? Have we been brought closer to God because his son was executed by a Roman governor who gave in to fear and the shouts of those he governed?
I don’t believe that’s who God is, the way God acts, or how God loves. That is not why we call this day, this Friday, good. Continue reading
It’s not hard to imagine that after the supper fiasco in Bethany – Mary anointing Jesus’ feet, Judas’ outburst, and Jesus talking about his death – the disciples might have been looking forward to a quiet evening, just a regular supper, just some food and conversation. That’s how tonight’s supper began but that’s not how it will end.
This night would be different. It would not be like the supper at Bethany. This time it was their feet. This time it is Peter’s outburst. This time it is Jesus talking about and showing love. It was, however, another supper interrupted.
“During supper Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”
Jesus is taking their relationship to the next level. They had been with each other for three years. Now they will become a part of each other. They had shared much over those three years, conversations, meals, experiences, prayer, time, life. Now they will take a share in Jesus and in each other. He in them. Them in him. They in each other. That’s how love is. Continue reading
He was the one they had waited for. They had grown up hearing stories of his coming. Then one day he showed up and chose them to be his friends and students, to follow and learn. He took them new places. He taught them new ideas and ways of living. He revealed God and showed them things they had never before seen. Water was turned into wine, a crippled man got up and walked, five thousand were fed with a few pieces of bread and a couple of fish. One day he walked on water. A blind was made to see and a dead man came back to life.
They believed in him. They followed him wherever he went. They spent all their time together. They walked together. They talked together. They ate together. They worshipped and prayed together. They lived together. They were a part of each others’ lives. Jesus wouldn’t have it any other way, then or now.
It was the perfect combination. Friendship, love, and intimacy. They are, I think, what we most long for. They are the ways of God and they show his presence in and among us. They are also the ground in which betrayal takes root. We can never betray one who has not first given and entrusted himself or herself into our hands and life, and Jesus knows that. “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” That Jesus can even be betrayed is proof of his love. Jesus has made his own betrayal possible not only with the disciples but in all times and in all places, even here, now, with us. Continue reading
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” they said to Philip. It’s not an unusual request. I suspect most of us have said or thought it. Twice a week the children in our parish school sing, “Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus.”
I wonder, however, if the visitors who came to Philip had any idea what they were asking. I wonder if we know what we are asking? It seems a simple enough request, but Jesus’ response is anything but simple. I don’t know what answer Philip and Andrew expected but I’ll bet they did not expect to hear about death. It is probably not the answer we expect or want when we ask to see Jesus, but it is the answer Jesus gives.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
Somehow death and seeing Jesus are intimately related. To see Jesus is more than looking at him. It is more than just believing the things he said and did. We follow Christ as participants not spectators. If we want to see Jesus then we must learn to die. To the degree we avoid and deny death, we refuse to see Jesus. Continue reading