Even though it is said that Jesus came to die, I often reflect it over and over in my mind that many things preceded His death. Many important things, preceded His death. His final hours were not an abrupt and neat death sentence, but a series of events when Jesus became increasingly emptied of Himself at every turn.
Jesus’ death was not only the giving up of His breath, it was the complete emptying of Himself.
At today’s Good Friday Tenebrae service, the reflections at Bangsar Lutheran Church led me to reflect on how Jesus’ earthly self was gradually stripped away as the evening went on.
First, His friends scattered and even the boldest denied Him (John 18:15-18; 25-27). Then, His ministry was questioned and discredited by the priestly order (John 18:19-24). He was then handed over to “enemy” of the Jews, so that He could be legally killed the Roman way (John 18: 28-33). Not only was He and His ministry questioned, it became a mockery and a thing of scorn (John 19:1-5); not only was He scorned by the Romans, Pilate was unconvinced that Jesus should have been killed.
Jesus’ own people rejected Him, bargaining and pleading with Pilate to crucify Him (John 19:7-16) because He equated Himself to God. At the cross, Jesus was stripped off the clothes on His back (John 19:23-25). Next, He entrusted His mother to John (v. 26-27).
Jesus allowed Himself to be emptied until all He had left was the skin on His bones.
And when He had nothing left, He opened His mouth to ask for water. A man of need. No longer able to even take the simplest form of sustenance.
When He had nothing left, not even to quench His own thirst, He said, “It is finished.” He had completely emptied Himself.
What a day. What a day for Jesus.
A day when His world could no longer accept His teachings, no longer tolerate His radical compassion, His liberal forgiving of sin, His careless healing, His crazed and sincere affirmation of the poor, His carefree fellowship with His friends, His lack of reverence for institutions, His refusal to kow-tow to powers, His soft spot for Gentiles, His regard for women. No, He was too good, too looney for the world. And it will reject Him on that basis, and it did. And He knew it would. He knew what was coming. He would either become obedient to death, or save His skin by compromising all that He stood for just to save His life. He became obedient to death.
It’s charming to think that He died for me. But He was also born, and lived, for us. To show us true humanity, and its fate in a broken world.
If Jesus, the truest and ideal human could live a life of love and justice, and reaffirm all that He had done to the priests and Pilate, how can I live any less than the life He has shown? If Jesus can look His impending death in the eye — why not I, a recipient of His life and His grace, live as a dead person raised to life?
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me