Normally, I do not preach on Good Friday. I allow the readings and the moment to speak for themselves but today I thought I would share something on the website which you can take or leave.
Hebrews hits the nail on the head – ‘it is not as if we had a high priest incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us, but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though He is without sin’.
This takes us back to the First Sunday in Lent where we encountered the Lord struggling with temptations to live His ministry in a way that could be in opposition to His Father’s will. In Gethsemane – “let this pass me by but not my will but thine be done”. And in Nikos Kazanztakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ”, the writer has Christ being tempted on the Cross. There is no evidence whatsoever in the Scriptures for this moment but as the first two are real and genuine it does not seem ridiculous that this third moment might also have happened.
As I have said so often, the temptations were real, they were not some tick box exercise which, when completed, the Lord could put on the ‘iwastemptedandcamethrough’ t-shirt. If we ignore the fact that the Lord would have continued to be tempted then we belittle and cheapen His humanity, we also cheapen His triumph. It seems to make perfect sense to me that the Lord would have continued to struggle with temptations and difficulties, doubts and worries. It is this that makes the Hebrews quote so central to who we are and who God is for us.
It is when I am tired, lonely, angry, feel misjudged or misunderstood that I am most drawn to throwing out bitter words, cruel jibes, saying things that I don’t mean. My loss of control if I bite my tongue or cheek is ridiculous and that is a momentary spasm of pain. Christ underwent agony and not just physical. Where were His family or friends, His Father, His hopes? Yet in all that He only speaks words of consolation, healing forgiveness, intercession, welcome.
He understood all our temptations but gives in to none of them. When all He might have wanted was for an end to people pulling and demanding of Him, even on the Cross they still come, and He prays ‘Today, you will be with me in Paradise!’
He thinks to bring Mary and John to support each other even as He might have hoped His disciples would have been there to support Him. As He is hated and belittled and humiliated – still He prays- ‘Forgive them’ and even in the agony of losing sight of God He still cries ‘Into Your hands, I commend my spirit.’
Even in the darkness and fear and isolation, even then, He never loses His trust in the God He can no longer see. In our struggle, in our isolation, maybe in our loss of the sense of God’s presence, In our lack of closeness to family and friends, of physical touch and love….if there is one who can fully understand and appreciate that struggle it is Him. When we cry ‘I thirst’…..well, let’s be open to receive what He can provide.