desertion – reblogging for Maundy Thursday

This was originally posted on Good Friday, 2009.  I thought I’d share it again here, on Maundy Thursday 2011.  Even if only to remind myself.

“Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”

These were the words I read aloud at the end of our Maundy Thursday service yesterday evening, which was a thoughtful service leading us ‘from the table to the garden’.
The words have echoed in my mind. 

They deserted him and fled.

As Jesus began the last hours of his journey to the cross, he was alone. Those who surrounded him were not his friends and supporters, but were hostile critics, mockers, haters. He was friendless in the crowd.

Even Pilate’s reluctance to pronounce a sentence upon him was not friendship enough. In the end, he washed his hands of Jesus.

They deserted him and fled.

Peter, buoyant impulsive Peter with all the marks of desperate loyalty: ‘I will never desert you!’ Peter who follows them in secret, wanting to know what will happen. Peter, who then denies even knowing
Jesus, not once but three times.

When it came to the crunch, Jesus faced all this alone.

The disciples did not understand, despite all the times he had warned them of what was coming. They did not understand why this had to happen. They could not cope with it when it did.

They deserted him and fled.

Then, after all the trial, the to-ing and fro-ing, being passed between befuddled rulers who could not, or would not, save him, he began the walk to Golgotha.  Only one of the twelve stood before him at the cross, together with Jesus’ devoted women followers, distraught at such a moment.  Deserted by his chosen disciples – denied by one, betrayed by another. Then – condemned to death by those in power.

And so they crucified him.

They did not see the fulfilment of prophecy. They did not understand his way of doing things. He did not ‘fit’ with their idea of a Messiah. He turned everything upside down. They feared revolt and rebellion.

He loved the least and the lost and the ones they had shunned.

And so they crucified him.

What happened at the cross? What is the atonement?
The at-one-ment?

I believe it has a whole rainbow of meaning – many colours, many words. All part of what Jesus achieved on our behalf. Sacrifice, redemption, ransom, substitution, Love’s ultimate demonstration, victory over evil, the re-alignment of humanity with God, mercy, justice, the path to adoption into God’s family, the greatest swap in the history of the world – our ugliness for his righteousness.

All these and more, for we can never entirely pin it down. There are always further nuances we can discover about this event which changed the world. Trying to slot God’s action into our ideas of him is not going to give an accurate impression. We need open hearts to learn more, see more, believe more and understand more.

In the eyes of the Torah, to be crucified  meant that the person was under a curse. The crucifixion made no sense to those who observed it, who called out: “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!!” Matthew 27:40b.

Does anyone else feel that echo from the testing wilderness moments right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (see my thought’s on Luke’s account of this over at Thirsty Ground)?

It made no sense to those who talked among themselves, and mocked him: “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” – Matthew 27:42-43

But he did not come down.

Darkness at the cross.

‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

That enormous feeling of isolation as one man bore the weight of the world on his shoulders.

But despite all appearances, it didn’t end here.

Vindication is coming.

The end is only the beginning.

4 thoughts on “desertion – reblogging for Maundy Thursday

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