Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Was Occurring on Holy Thursday?

What was occurring on Holy Thursday in Jerusalem? Our Lord, in the Upper Room, said to His disciples, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." His passion and death are vivid in His mind, especially when He institutes the Eucharist. Then, in the Garden, it appears that there is an 180-degree turn.. What is going on?

In another part of Jerusalem--or the vicinity of Jerusalem--there are two men imprisoned. The Roman guards are taunting them regarding their upcoming crucifixions. They describe it as graphically as they can, not omitting a single detail. The two men do their best not to show any fear. They do not desire to see the guards receive any satisfaction of seeing fear in them; therefore, they curse them, showing a bravado that probably was not in them. It is doubtful that they prayed a single prayer. They were determined to face death bravely. Now, back to our Lord. At the Supper, He is the General, stating what was going to occur. After the Supper, which He greatly desired to eat with His disciples, He stands up, and marches to the Garden so He could be easily found by His enemies. He tells His disciples, "Sit here, while I go yonder and pray." He then takes Peter, James, and John, and at that time "began to be sorrowful and sore troubled." It is as if He "flipped a switch." He tells them, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." What is going on? Not only that, what does that have to do with us, with our salvation?

St. Hilary points out that our Lord was not sorrowful till He took them but that all His fear began after He had taken them. Therefore, says St. Hilary, our Lord's agony was not for Himself but for them whom He had taken. Likewise, St. Jerome tells us, "The Lord therefore sorrowed not from fear of suffering, for for this cause He had come, that He should suffer, and had rebuked Peter for his fearfulness, but for the wretched Judas, for the offense of the rest of the Apostles, for the rejection and reprobation of the Jewish nation, and the overthrow of unhappy Jerusalem."

Jesus had to be tempted in every way that we are tempted in order that we, in our weaknesses, may be made strong. He had to be tempted in every way in order to identify with us. The author of Hebrews informs us, "Though He was a Son, yet [He] learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became unto all them that obey Him the author of eternal salvation." It is the mystery of the Incarnation: Being the Son of God, nevertheless He had to become the Son of Man--wholly God, wholly Man. Being perfect by nature of His divinity, nevertheless He, as Son of Man, had to be made perfect by the things He suffered. As Son of Man, He depended not upon Himself but the Father. It was in this way that He overcame human weaknesses. In the same fashion, we are able to overcome our weaknesses. He showed us that God can, and will, make us strong in our weaknesses, making true President Roosevelt's assertion that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It is necessary that we face hardships, in order that we may see the power of God in delivering us. Too often, we are "blind," unable to see God at work in, and around, us.

Many people had been crucified prior to our Lord. Some probably went kicking and screaming, terrified of what was going to occur; some perhaps went bravely. However, they suffered the same. They were not rewarded or punished more severely by God by virtue of how they faced crucifixion. Our Lord knew vividly what was awaiting Him. St. John of Damascus reminds us: "All things which have not yet been brought into existence by their Maker have a natural desire of existence, and naturally shun non-existence. God the Word then, having been made Man, had this desire, through which He desired food, drink, and sleep, by which life is supported, and naturally used them, and contrariwise shunned the things that are destructive of life. Hence in the season of His Passion which He endured voluntarily, He had the natural fear and sorrow for death. For there is a natural fear wherewith the soul shrinks from separation from the body, by reason of that close sympathy implanted from the first by the Maker of all things." St. Jerome: "Our Lord therefore sorrowed to prove the reality of the Man which He had taken upon Him; but that passion might bear no sway in His mind, 'He began to be sorrowful' by pro-passion; for it is one thing to be sorrowful, and another to be very sorrowful."

Our Lord Jesus Christ had to drink the cup, including all the dregs, in order that that cup, with the dregs, may not be passed on to us. "For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine foameth (continuously); it is full of mixture, and He poureth (continually) out of the same: surely the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them" (Ps 75:8). Our ewarthly father, Adam, was placed in the Garden by God, but fell when tempted. Our Brother, our Lord and Savior, entered the Garden as the Son of Adam to voluntarily face temptation in the weakness of human flesh and destroy sin and death by keeping focused upon the Father's will and the victory that was to become of His obedience. He entered the Garden not for Himself but for the Father and us. The Garden is D-Day. Yes, we all have to drink from the cup; however, we do not drink the dregs. When we eat His Body and drink His blood, oh, may we contemplate what He was, and is, doing in reconciling us to the Father. May we no longer commune thoughtlessly. The Son of God left heaven to be born of the Virgin, to become Man, in order that He might suffer and die for us, becoming our High Priest.

"For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; and by reason thereof is bound, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh the honour unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron. So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him, Thou art my Son, This day have I begotten thee: as he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever After the order of Melchizedek. Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb 5:1-10).
--Tommy Turner