I love Holy Week, our annual remembrance of the most dreadful and wonderful week there ever was; our walking with Jesus, purposely, towards the cross.
I love the richness of this week, for story-telling. Maundy Thursday alone gives us scope to tell the story of the Passover, the meal celebrating God’s deliverance, that Jesus reframes in the context of the cross; to tell the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet; and – as I will be doing this year – to tell the story of Jesus’ agony in the garden.
This year I am leading meditations on the prayer of Jesus on Maundy Thursday (in the context of a week of 24/7 prayer) and on the wounds of Christ on Good Friday; and also a Stations of the Cross walk along the two dual-carriageways that form a cross centred on our parish church, on Good Friday afternoon. But first, tomorrow, I am presiding at a communion service in a local nursing home.
The reading is John 12:20-36, in which some Greeks ask to see Jesus, and Jesus speaks of his being lifted up in death.
It strikes me that Jesus is made visible, in this world, in the context of pain – his pain, and ours. There comes a point at which Jesus’ choosing to give his life into the hands of his Father becomes a voluntary choice to give up his life into the hands of his Father – having submitted himself to taking on human form, submitting himself to the full consequence of human nature: loss of strength; loss of agency (the move from being able to do things for yourself to having to rely on what others will do for you, for good or ill); death.
It strikes me that we can only see Jesus from a place of lost agency. To the extent that we are in control of our own destiny – to the extent that we operate from a position of (perceived) power – we will be as blind to Jesus, even stood directly in front of us, as Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod were. To the extent that we are in control of our own destiny, we will deny Jesus as much as Peter did. And, to a greater or lesser extent, we all exercise agency. But where we have lost agency, we will see Jesus, lifted up.
There is hope and invitation in that, for those whose agency is stripped from them, by old age or ill health.
And challenge, too – for those in the prime of life: will we, like Jesus, voluntarily let-go of agency, in order to be where he is, in order to see him?