“The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death.”
Jesus, sensing his hour of fulfillment was drawing near, withdrew to a secluded place for prayer. He did not go alone this time, as was his usual practice, but took with him his closest companions. He was in need of comfort and support. It was becoming clear to Jesus that the pathway of his ministry was going to involve increased suffering. The specter of death was growing. The thought chilled him.
Jesus had no death wish. He loved life and embraced every moment. Every sunrise brought promise. Every breeze refreshed him. At the sound of music he would break forth into dance. At the sight of children playing he too would begin to hop and skip. His lack of self- consciousness often embarrassed his disciples. And food, oh how Jesus loved food. Not to excess, of course, but yes the greatest event of the day was sitting at table with his friends; conversing, laughing and telling stories late into the night. And it wasn’t just the good things in life that Jesus embraced. He also fully experienced the sadness of his world. He would sit for hours listening to the troubles of a lonely widow. The little baby crying with teething pain always received comfort; Jesus gently massaging the baby’s gums with his finger. At the death of a friend, Jesus wept.
Now, Jesus was the one in need of help, but who could comfort him? Who could even begin to understand what he was to encounter. The Father hearing the groans deep in Jesus’ spirit responded, sending to Jesus two from the past. Moses the Lawgiver. Elijah the Prophet. Both of them liberators. Moses delivered the people from the chains of economic and political oppression and the darkness of false gods. Elijah broke the bondage of a religion that had lost its covenant mooring, no longer committed to the one true God or to the welfare and peace of all peoples. Jesus The Liberator – “I am the Truth, the Way and the Life, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” was the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets. All that Moses said, everything that Elijah did, pointed toward Him. And so these two men could speak to the demands of ministry that Jesus was to face.
But it was not the ministry question that really troubled Jesus. It was dying that he was anxious about. He did not want to let go of life. Moses and Elijah were uniquely qualified to come to Jesus on this account. Moses had died. He knew what it was to be released from this realm into the eternal dimension. Elijah, however, had not tasted death. He was carried living through the gates of heaven on a fiery chariot. He knew the power of the resurrection! Both stories would become Jesus’ experience.
It’s all right for you and me to have fears about the unknown, about death. It’s OK to want to hold onto life, for life is good. The same Father that heard Jesus hears us. Suffering is almost guaranteed if we join in the liberation league of Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Death comes to us all. But the God who hears us, speaks to us from the Law and the Prophets, from the Word — if we die with Christ we too shall be raised with Christ. This is the mystery of our faith.
Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 12:1-4; 2 Tim 1:8-10; Mt 17:1-9
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice.Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.