Jesus Passion – Our Passion
In our churches on this day, our narrator would normally begin the gospel with the words “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John”. While we would seldom stop to think of the word “Passion” and its root and origin in the language, perhaps there is something there for us if today we do just that. We think, surely, of the word in terms of its connection with suffering. The Passion of Jesus is about his sufferings and his death. To have com-passion is to suffer with another. Its meaning, however, is not exhausted in terms of the connection to suffering. The Passion of Jesus brings before us another aspect, expressed in the word passive. The word passive is also linked and bound up with the Passion.
When we think of Jesus life on earth, we constantly see him as a person of action. We encounter him preaching, teaching, healing, forgiving, travelling, meeting with people, confronting the religious authorities, sharing food and enjoying table fellowship with people. Jesus is a doer. He constantly does things for people., He is active almost constantly. The gospels bring home to us also the fact that because of the demands on him, he can scarcely find himself a minute to himself.
However, the last days of Jesus life on earth are such a contrast to those three years of action. As we move away from the table in the upper room, such a change takes place. The activity stops. From doing things for and with others, Jesus now has things done to him. – he is arrested, put on trial, condemned, scourged, mocked, stripped, crucified, put to death. There is true passivity in Jesus’ situation.
Jesus brings humanity to life by all that he says and does. When the shadow of the cross grows larger and larger, that life giving continues. It even intensifies in its saving aspect. The redemption is ongoing even in Jesus time of passivity. By his holy cross and by his Passion and in this time of being subjected to the cruelty and humiliation of others, he continues to bring about our salvation. Through his Holy Cross he has truly redeemed the world.
In this tragic and anguish filled time which afflicts us and our world just now, we are constantly presented with the “mantra” like call – stay at home. Stay at home: – in doing so we are told that we will be playing our part and saving lives. Much of what has always marked daily life and relationships has been taken from us. Our normal daily patterns of doing and giving have gone for the moment. On one level, it is a call not to action but precisely to passivity, in a sense to actively do nothing other than sit and wait. Of course, that is a gross over simplification. There is so much going on in our homes, in our hospitals and in the way that people are helping each other and looking out for each other, . Then there is the “front line” of crucially vital involvement by our NHS workers and many more. There is the witness also of the sick and the dying. The presence of Christ to this situation is made manifest in so many ways and people.
But this is a very real and deep passion of humanity. It is a passion of pain and suffering and loss. It is also a Passion which binds us to Jesus in the passive aspects of his work of redemption.
If this virus were a visible and physical enemy it would already have been dealt with. With all our force and strength, we would have defeated it. We form part of a world where we are so used to problems being met and overcome. In the world of medicine we have long been able to rely on vaccines to take care of diseases and flu’s, where pills and other medication work to make countless medical problems easily manageable.
So it is little wonder that we find this time so agonising and difficult. This truly is the cross given to us. This indeed is the Passion in which we find ourselves passive and to some extent even helpless.
But the Jesus who went to the cross of Calvary is the one who saves us and redeems us even in those moments of our forced passivity. He invites us in this time when we are, for the moment, beaten down and made passive, to join our passion to his. He tells us even now that we too, in him, are made able to truly live and to truly give, even through this time of passivity and trial.
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
Good Friday 2020