Today, half way through the Triduum, the great three day service which recalls the final moments of Jesus’ earthly life, before bringing us to the joy of his victory over death …
today, we come to the foot of the cross …
today, we join with his mother, the disciple whom he loved, and those few who were brave enough to witness his final human breaths.
Today, like no other day, we are challenged to reflect upon what it means to see Jesus’ words, as he made his final journey towards Jerusalem, come true.
In our reading from the prophet Isaiah we heard these words: … my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.
Isaiah was writing seven centuries before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
In his writings, which were central to the teachings of the Jewish faith, he was prophesying the coming of the Messiah … the Anointed One of God … the King who would sweep aside all that had gone before … the one who renew and revitalise the covenant between God and humanity.
It is not difficult to see how Isaiah’s words would have led the Jewish people to expect a very different Messiah from the one we see in Jesus.
Isaiah’s words speak of exaltation and elevation … he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.
Isaiah also speaks of a Messiah who shall prosper.
As we await the moment when Jesus will breathe his last human breath, it is difficult to recognize the words of this great prophecy coming true.
Yes … Jesus has been lifted up … but not as might have been reasonably expected by those who had followed him throughout his earthly ministry.
Of course, we are not in the same place as those first century Jews who felt that they were witnessing the shattering of another dream … yet another false messiah coming to an inevitable sticky end.
We are post-resurrection people … we know the whole story … we know that this is not the end, but a necessary step along the narrow way … something that has to happen if Jesus is to prove his divinity and kinship with God.
So … what are we to make of today?
In the Passion Narrative of John, we heard these words: It is finished. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus cried out … and breathed his last.
All four accounts of Jesus’ last moments offer us a picture with which we can identify … that moment when human existence comes to an end … that moment when we enter into God’s nearer presence … that moment when all the promises make sense and we know the reality of the eternal life that Christ came to win for us all.
Last night, as we celebrated the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper, we paused to reflect upon Jesus’ ministry … a ministry that steps outside normal expectations and brings his love and light into this dark and divided world.
Today we are presented with the stark reality of just how cruel human beings can be to one another.
Jesus had to endure the full extent of what we are capable of if his time on earth was to bring about a new covenantal relationship between God and humanity.
So, as we weep at the extent of our brutal inhumanity, let us seek the purpose of it all.
Last night we remembered Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet and his giving of the new commandment: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
As we journey from the foot of the cross this afternoon, words from our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews should be ringing in our ears: … let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.
Jesus was lifted up … he was lifted up on a cross because of our inadequacy, our fear, our need to be the ones in control … but …
Jesus was lifted up in glory, even as he hung on a cross …
Jesus was lifted up in a moment of fulfilment and coronation …
Jesus was lifted up, on a cross, as the ultimate demonstration of the life we should be living in his name.