This is not a place where we want to be, here at the end of the passion reading. Do we really want to stand at the tomb of lost hopes? Do we really want to stand on a hill of disappointment? Do we really want to embrace suffering?
It is a hot day in Jerusalem. Rain is seven months away, and the dust is choking. We are outside the walls, just outside. People are constantly passing by. On the other side of the city, the lambs are being slaughtered for the Passover. There are a few people standing at a distance, jeering. It’s getting dark in the middle of the day. That’s not right. We know what an eclipse is, we have felt the sun shrinking like we have felt our hearts shrinking as this day has developed. It will be dark soon, the stars will be out for a few minutes.
This scene is worse than a murder on the street, worse than any catastrophe we may run across. This is the one who deserves all our love, our respect, our reverence. No one wants to be here. Everyone has to be dragged here. We have to be dragged here. We have to look at hopelessness, we have to look at death. We have to look at the death of pride, we have to look at the death of our pride. This isn’t a place for comfortable dreams, this is a place that is all too real.
People have run away rather than face Jesus’ suffering. People have abandoned him rather than face him, rather than face us. People have not be strong enough to come this far. We’re not much different: we have a little more courage, but we still want to hang around at the edges, to stay at the edge of the action and protect ourselves from getting sucked in. We can’t duck what’s here, we can’t duck what’s now. It is a place were it appears that we are helpless; it is a place where we feel powerless. This is the place we have to start. We have to start where we feel powerless.
When we embrace our powerlessness, we have to let go of our pride. We have to let go of our certainty. We have to let go of our need to be right. We have to let go of ourselves; turn ourselves inside out. That’s something that Jesus has done, and nowhere is it more real than here. Jesus has put aside status. Jesus has put aside personal reputation. Jesus has put aside ambition. Jesus has put aside knowledge. Jesus has put aside control. Jesus has put aside Law. Jesus has put aside possessions and riches. Jesus has put an end to fairytale dreams of a perfect kingdom on earth that works like every other kingdom on earth, staffed by loyalists who will do whatever they’re told. Jesus has created a place on this bare hill where we can start over. We have to come here to start over, to remember who we are and why we’re here. We have to put aside what Jesus has put aside, if we are to be imitators of Christ.
We don’t leave our humanity behind. We don’t leave our sadness, our emptiness, our regret. We remember who we are and what we’ve done. We bring all those things that burden us here, all those things we’ve carried that weigh us down. Our fear. Our stubbornness. Our pride. Our ambition. Our desperate appetite for easy comfort. Our need to control everything. Our need to be right.
We bring them here to leave them. We bring them here to nail them up. We bring them here to destroy them. We bring them to the one who understands us; who have lived as we have and knows where they come from. We bring them here so they can be washed away by the Blood of Christ.