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A holy Thursday dilemma

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A man may have to die for his country, but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: Himself. (CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

Holy Thursday, that day when things were cranking up and clashing all at once in the face of Jesus, Son of Man, turned out to be a total crisis.{{more}} With his companions, he expressed his love in demonstrations, role play and prophetic challenge. Bowing and stooping as their slave, he washed all their feet. At the close of their Heritage meal, he laid out his life for them in bread and wine – ‘my body and my blood’– as the legacy they were to cherish, and still his soul was afflicted and his mind conflicted. He went aside for another fellowship session, with Abba, Dahda. Everything was settled, yet nothing was. There were caring voices saying: ‘the time is not ripe yet, why not hold back until next year?’ A whisper tweeted: ‘Remember Moses. He ran away from the crisis and came back stronger. You can do that too.’ Still more options seemed to fill the cloud. ‘It is not the first time in your life that a leadership has desired to wipe you out. Remember Herod when you were an infant? Walk away again. Abba will be your stronghold.’ He was faced with attractive proposals, just as we are in our time and in our country and in our persons. Good looking opportunities of a lifetime seem to open up for us. Jesus saw it correctly. It was a crisis.

SOMETHING THAT IS BIGGER DEMANDS SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Something bigger than country, or party, or strategic success, or class, or family and personal security was pressing in on Jesus. A profound anointing and compulsion was invading him. It demanded that ‘he surrender himself without reservation to’… an open ended liberating salvation. He even questioned his own answers! On Holy Thursday, in the garden of Gethsemane therefore, the crisis was very real for Jesus the Christ. He needed help and support from outside the camp to stand strong and so as he wrestled in prayer, his conclusion was: ‘Abba … not my will but yours prevail.’ I will take the leap of faith into your glory although it looks like mist and darkness-loss.

Lori Rizzo shared this story in ‘Fresh from the Word’ 2015. “Once for love of God I did something I knew would end badly. I brought my vocation to my gatekeepers (for them to decide my future). As I drove to my appointments, the Spirit gave me these words. ‘Father, glorify your name’. It is a terrifying prayer. It almost stops your heart to speak it. I was walking into the fight of my life, defenceless.” Ms Rizzo reminds us though: ‘The seed falls to the ground and dies. Then, in the darkness: life. It was Jesus the farmer who shared that insight with us.

NOT A ROBOT SAVIOUR, A GRACEFUL ONE

No computer programme has been written that controls the work and conduct of God. We must not think of the Father as a robot who has to obey a programme written for the Creator. The Bible does not control God, the Lord, or there would be no God, only an ‘app’ that we who read can manipulate. The conflict in his spirit and the tumult in his mind as he prayed in Gethsemane, show us that Jesus the Saviour was no robot either. How do we understand the fact that in his own words, Jesus anticipated his own death, but also wished to avoid it when he prayed to ‘remove this cup from me’? The truth is that as a human being, made in the mold of God, Jesus had to take decisions, make choices, avoid evil, experience anxiety and extend grace and love deliberately. It is not possible to be a human being and live a totally predictable and unwavering life.

We, like Jesus, are called to take decisions and make choices. Such choices can decide the quality of the lives we live. In a crisis, we may have to agonize and sweat. That is a gift that enables us to choose good and depart from evil and advance from holy Thursday into good Friday into resurrection and Pentecost – from dilemma to deliverance.

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