One of the most poignant passages we will read during this Holy Week is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Church at Philippi:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Phil. 2:5-11
I am struck by the description of the depth of Jesus’ obedience “to the point of death – even death on a cross.” His journey, especially during the days leading up to the Crucifixion, was a journey of obedience. That gets right to the heart of Holy Week, doesn’t it?
We know that the journey was not without its moments for Jesus. He prayed about it until he sweated blood. The temptation to take another path, to escape, to avoid the cross, was always there. But he knew his mission and was obedient to the One who had set this path before him.
By his obedience to that higher vocation, Jesus was able to overcome his inner conflict. By his commitment to the mission entrusted to him, he was able to remain steadfast until he fulfilled it. By his discipline in the midst of confusion, he was able to discern the way forward toward his redemptive objective.
In the story "Ninety-three," Victor Hugo tells of a ship caught in a violent storm. When the storm was at its height, the frightened crew heard a terrible crashing below. A cannon they were carrying had broken loose and was banging into the ship’s sides, tearing gaping holes with every smashing blow. Two men, at the risk of their lives, managed to secure the cannon again, for they knew that the loose cannon was more dangerous than the storm. The storm could toss them about, but the loose cannon within could sink them.
So, too, the outside storms and problems of life aren’t the greatest danger. It’s the terrible destructiveness of a lack of obedience to the highest, best, and noblest dimensions of life that can send us to the bottom.
The cross could have destroyed Jesus. But it didn’t because in humility he submitted himself to a discipline that kept him within the Divine Will. We could use some of his obedience in our own lives. Maybe some will rub off on us as we walk with him in the Way of the Cross during Holy Week, through the Crucifixion, into the Tomb, and into the glorious Resurrection on Easter. Let’s do it together!
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral