There is a unique quality of self-possession and detachment in the way Jesus goes through his ordeals. From our common experience of facing crisis and transformation, loss and mortality, it could be interpreted as a lack of feeling, self-anaesthesia. We are all prone to bury our heads in the sand when we don’t like what we see. From a quasi-theological point of view it could be misread by saying, ‘well he was God as well so it didn’t hurt him really. He knew it would all turn out well in the end.’ We tend to prefer an idealised spiritual master or an olympian god who is above rather than within the realm of our humanity
The thing is that the story is all meaningless – and also we have wasted our time in Lent – if we don’t get it that Jesus was as human as we are and is as human as we will be.
How do we deal with loss, mortality, betrayal and disappointment? Who on earth does not experience these in some measure at times in our brief lives? Our response to suffering determines how we also deal with discoveries, regeneration, love and the fulfilment of our hopes. These also, in some measure, characterise human existence. There’s no doubt what we would prefer to choose from the palette of human colour. But nor is there any doubt in the end that both teach and form us and we must embrace both with equal humility.
The detachment we learn over time and that makes for maturity of character means we don’t throw a tantrum whenever we don’t get what we want. Nor do we plunge into total despair when we lose what we have. In the same way we don’t become possessive when the good things of life come our way. We don’t delude ourselves that there aren’t problems round the corner. But it is this very fine balance of response that allows us to go beyond the see-saw of emotion and the ego’s clinging to the pain-pleasure perspective.
Meditation as part of life, our Lenten attempt to live a better balance of life point to the great sign we will contemplate in these coming days. To go through suffering, to release ourselves into death when the time comes, to let go of all we love and the delights of life without resentment: thus we encounter a goodness beyond good and bad, a fulfilment beyond finding and losing, a life beyond life and death. More, we discover it is not there on Mount Olmpus but here written into our very DNA.
If Lent was about trekking in the desert for forty years Holy Week is about coming come and saying an exultant thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.