THY WILL BE DONE
SERMON PREACHED BY FR. TONY NOBLE ON March 28th, 2010
Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God. Why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Last Thursday we celebrateD the feast of the Annunciation – that pivotal moment when the Archangel Gabriel, came to the Virgin Mary and said she was to be the mother of the Savior. As I was reflecting on this feast day, I thought of a question: What if the Blessed Virgin had said no to the Archangel Gabriel? She didn’t, of course – but conceivably, she could have. For the incarnation did depend on Mary saying yes – and we know that was how it was. But there was enough hesitation in the conversation between Mary and the archangel, and fear in her mind, that she might have said no.
This led me to muse on the question: what if Jesus had said no this week? What if He had shrunk from His journey to the cross? What if He had not gone through Palm Sunday, because He was afraid? He didn’t, of course. Like Mary, on His ‘yes’ to God hangs the salvation of the world. As well as being the Son of God, Jesus was also human – true God and true man. So He could have said no. Nothing rams this point home better than the words of Psalm 22, which Jesus uttered from the cross: “My God, my God. Why hast Thou forsaken me?”
In the recitation of Psalm 22 we see the human Jesus, the one that could have said ‘no’. Was this cry from the cross a cry of desperation, or regret, or inner turmoil, or perhaps the cry of one who wishes He were dead already?
We may not have felt forsaken by God, but we might have felt forsaken by men. Even abandoned by those we love, and perhaps, even a hint of that opening of Psalm 22.
Today Jesus enters the holy city of Jerusalem. “Hosanna to the son of David,” the crowd shouted. Riding on a donkey was a prophecy of the Messiah – and it just might have seemed to Jesus that at this moment He was to accomplish His vocation as Messiah, and fulfill all those ancient prophesies – without going through the depths of Holy Week. He could have thought that today it was accomplished.
Did He know that their shouts of, “Hosanna”, would turn to, “Crucify Him” on Friday? When that did happen, Jesus knew what it was to be forsaken by men. On the cross on Friday, it must have seemed to Jesus that even God had forsaken Him. And so He cries Psalm 22:1.
Now even if we have known the feeling of being forsaken, abandoned, and even betrayed, we do find it hard to believe that Jesus would have gone through that experience. But who can doubt, that in His suffering Jesus was feeling alone? I find great comfort in this. Jesus has been where we have been.
We might not have felt forsaken by God, but we know the depths of life – be it sadness, bereavement or just the unlucky things that come our way. So when Jesus says, “My God, my God”, perhaps we know, and perhaps He’s identifying with us in that way.
As we look at Jesus on the cross, we see Him not only going through what we have been through – but we see Jesus going through the wilderness experience. That same wilderness experience we remembered at the beginning of Lent, when Jesus went into the wilderness of Judea for forty days. Now it seems that, once again for Jesus, there is this wilderness experience. Lent now concludes with Jesus alone with God – and it is the wilderness of Holy Week. It begins with Jesus riding into Jerusalem to public acclamation. But it will soon be followed by the betrayal in the garden – and Jesus will know that loneliness that He also experienced in the wilderness for those forty days.
The wilderness has come full turn – and it will come to its fullness on Maundy Thursday in the His night of prayer, His watch in the garden of Gethsemane. Then to that final wilderness, which will be on the cross.
Satan’s temptations, which Jesus experienced in the desert, will come to Him in this wilderness at the end also. On Maundy Thursday, in his desperate prayer, Jesus says to the Father, “If this cup, but pass me by?” But then, like Mary, He says, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done.” But when He says, “If this cup, but pass me by,” the reality of what faced Him has caused a cry from the heart.
This is the same temptation of those forty days in the desert. It’s the temptation to achieve the kingdom by an easy way – by riding on a donkey, to shouts of joy, rather than the cup of suffering.
Today it seems that it might be possible to usher in the kingdom by riding on a donkey into the Holy City. But on Maundy Thursday Jesus will know there is nothing less than the cup to be drunk, which is the cup of bitter pain.
On Good Friday Jesus is faced with another of those wilderness temptations. The crowd says, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Back in the desert, Satan said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, through yourself down.” In the wilderness, come down from the temple – on Calvary, come down from the cross. Jesus refused in the wilderness to come down – and on Good Friday He is unable to come down. For the cup that He wanted to pass Him by, must be drunk to the very dregs.
Just as Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness, so this week Jesus comes face-to-face with Satan again. At first, it seems that God has forsaken him. This is the ultimate suffering of Jesus – the final wilderness – the wilderness of being completely alone, even without God. For Jesus to walk in this wilderness requires faith.
God will not be made use of in the wilderness, and Jesus was not tempted to do so. Jesus will not make use of God even on the cross.
Jesus’ example this week calls us, who follow Him, to live by faith also. To live by faith in the wilderness, which is our world today, where we live and move.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, come and walk with Jesus in faith this week – this Holy Week. Let it be a great adventure by which we will live out our faith.
Come, let us go with Jesus to Jerusalem!