Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Friday 25th March 2005
Good Friday
Holy Trinity, Hurstpierpoint

Based on Meditation By The Cross.

Where did it all go wrong? How did so much love become transformed into so much hate? How did He become separated from the lovely lakeside of Galilee and end up, dying between a pair of thieves on this rubbish dump? But, more important, where was the Father to whom he had been so faithful and obedient for the whole of His life?

Relatives always will reminisce about the birth of a child but nobody had said much to Him; they were obviously ashamed of something. He remembered childhood trips to Jerusalem which broke the monotony of village life as an odd job man but it had all been calm until his Cousin John had emerged from the wilderness to preach the Kingdom; and He knew at once that John meant the Kingdom of His Father. He knew this when He was baptised by John; He heard His Father and He felt the Spirit within Him. He knew it when He fasted and prayed in the wilderness before those magic days by the lake when He had felt totally free, recruiting his followers; and He knew it when He performed His first miracles. Of course there had been scepticism, and even some small minded opposition, but He had everything in front of Him. He knew, of course, that it would not always be easy; but those first few months with all the raw faith of the people, the rows of sick and broken humanity made whole, encounters with gentiles and strange people; it was like a blur now, with flashes of sun and water, boat trips and scenes of wild jubilation as thousands were fed.

And then it had all become more serious as opposition hardened and became organised at the top of the religious hierarchy. He knew He had to go on but it became more edgy; He had to say what He had to say but was tempted to speak more in parables and to be less blunt. And slowly, as the time went by, He saw that He would have to work out the choreography for His own death; it couldn't be a messy chapter of accidents; it needed to happen in a certain way in order to show the world the love and power of His father.

He had not been travelling the length and breadth of Palestine for a couple of years before He knew that He would die within a couple of years, at the Passover, to make a neat alignment with the Scriptures. It haunted Him constantly but there was still the companionship of the Disciples and the somewhat unsteady love of the crowd; but as the time drew nearer, the Disciples were not such good companions and the crowd was ever more fickle. Even as he sat at table for the final Passover of His earthly life, He knew that His ordeal would be lonely; He knew that Peter would not have the nerve to stick with Him, that the others would flee; and that, as usual, it would be His mother and the women who would stay. His mother; what a miracle she was!

The physical pain since his arrest had been alternately excruciating and numbing; the noise and  mockery and mess had been unrelenting He had known how it would be; every time He visited Jerusalem there were crucifixions. It would soon be over; and then, what?

Where had it all gone wrong? Where was His Father to whom He had been so humbly and unswervingly faithful? He had preached the Kingdom of His father, He had always deferred in everything to His Father; He had claimed nothing for Himself which did not come from the Father; He was acting now in painful obedience to the Father; but He could not see why; he could not see what it was for.

Even in pain he liked the ironic plaque that the old rogue Pilate had caused to be put above his head; King of the Jews in three languages; he liked it because He had spent so much of His time telling people that He was not going to be the King of the Jews; and that had been the killer blow for poor old Judas who could not bear His airy fairy promises about a Heavenly Kingdom and wanted Him to be the King of the Jews here and now. Poor Judas; and it had all ended like this with Judas dying before Him.

He saw His mother trying not to cry; He saw young John pretending not to cry; He saw the women who had been so quietly faithful trying not to cry. He wished they would cry because he wanted to cry, too. He had known all His life that there was something special about Him and his lifelong mission. He had somehow known from as soon as He could speak that He was a very special child of His Father in heaven. He had felt it with every visit to the Synagogue, as He was allowed to untie the scrolls and read from the Torah. He had read and understood very well for a boy of such humble origins. He knew, when His spirit was freed to travel and preach, that He was doing the right thing; He knew as He prayed alone whenever He could find respite from the crowds, that He was doing the  right thing, that He was a special child of His father in Heaven. He had never felt embarrassed using the sacred language of Godhead; He had never felt that He was overstepping the mark, that He was being blasphemous, even though that was the charge most often levelled against Him. He had said He would rise in three days; that was the Spirit in Him; but where was the Spirit now?

He had known that His mission was special right up to the time when He was condemned to die; and then His certainty had foresaken Him. It was all very well to say that His Kingdom was not of this world and that His accusers would learn the reality sooner or later; but here He was, about to die, with His disciples fled and nothing lasting accomplished. 

With His last breath He cried out to His Father: "Why Have You foresaken me?"; and in the split second after He said it, in the split second before He died, He wished He had stayed quiet,. In that split second He saw that He was not foresaken, that His unswerving obedience to His Father, even in death, had earned Him a unique place in His Father's love that would spill over Golgotha, over Palestine and over the whole world; He did not know how; but He knew in that instant that He had not been abandoned but had simply been left to show love in the way that only the lonely can show love. And then He died.

Prayer. Jesus, Saviour of the World, may we learn true obedience, through Your example, to our heavenly Father. May we be brave and steadfast in the face of mockery and, even more, in the face of indifference to Your word. Even now, as you are suspended between earthly life and heavenly glory, we pray for Your help that we may stand daily within the shadow of Your Cross. And, as you were unswervingly obedient to the Father, may we, strengthened by Your example, temper our obedience with love so that we may be His true children. Secure in His love, may our obedience be deepened by Your passion and Death and broadened by the calm of the Holy Spirit. Amen.