If you are the Son of God – at the beginning of Lent, we read the stories of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. I remarked at the time that Satan’s temptation was doubly devious. Satan challenges Jesus to feed Himself and to prove God’s love of Him, if He is the Son of God, knowing full well who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God; yet He is on earth to do the will of His Father in heaven. I made the comment at the time that these temptations were nowhere near as difficult as those which our Lord would later face. Flash forward to our Palm Sunday’s Passion Narrative.
In our reading from this weekend, Jesus asks the Father to let the cup pass three times. Always, however, Jesus tells God “not My will but Yours be done.” Jesus so does not want to have to experience the upcoming torment; yet He agrees to follow the will of God. Then, in the midst of the torture, the very people He came to rescue mock Him and challenge Him in the very way of Satan. Passerby’s mock Him, “You who would tear down this temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself. If you are the Son of God, come down.” “He is king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now.” “If He is God’s Son, let God deliver Him.” Even the thief mocks Him at the end, “If you are the Son of God, save Yourself” The temptations for Jesus at the end must have been tremendous. He is the king, He is the Son of God, He is the Savior! Yet, to save His people, Jesus must lay down His life. You or I might want our circumstances to change, but we can do nothing about it. Jesus could have changed His circumstances by a simple force of will. In other words, He had to want to remain on that cross for all our sakes. Imagine the suffering. Imagine the pain.
The narrative this weekend was particularly moving at both services as each of our voices was drawn into the crowd's. We each participated in the mocking of Jesus. “If You are the Son of God.” At the beginning of Lent I invited each of us to examine our relationship with our Lord. Were we like the Temple elites, ignorant of who Jesus was and is? Were we like the demons He encountered in His ministry, who knew who Jesus was but to whom they refused to bow and obey? Were we like the blind man, who was given eyes to see? Were we like Lazarus, who was raised from the dead? Far too often, we find ourselves as the mockers. Far too often we find ourselves acting as if we do not believe. And often, we find ourselves repenting of our failures. “If You really are listening Lord, give me that promotion.” “If You really are God, do this for me and I will never miss church again.” Yet it was for the likes of each of us that He came to save. Thankfully, mercifully, He asks only that we believe in Him. He promises to take care of the rest.
So, who is He to you? Is He your Lord and Savior? Or is He something entirely different? Something unworthy of one who stayed upon that cross despite our persistent ridiculing of His efforts? It is, admittedly, an uncomfortable question. If He is our Lord, the thought what He did for us so long ago can nearly break our hearts and drive us to our knees. And if He is not, this week’s activities can seem as vapid as any blather. The ultimate focus of this week’s activities, Easter Morning, assures us that He is who He says He is and that He can keep each of His promises to us. The ultimate focus of this week reminds us each that He refused to leave us where we deserved to be. And instead of lording Himself over us, He came to serve and to save us. So, who is He to you?