An odd thing about Jesus is that, every time he seems to be faced with temptation to give up on the Father’s plan that has him dying for the world’s sins, Jesus then overcomes the temptation with extra resolve. We’ve seen this throughout Lent. Right at the beginning of his ministry, he goes into the wilderness for the sole purpose of subjecting himself to temptation by no less than Satan himself. He comes out toughened and confirmed and ready for work.
Later, when Jesus begins to share with his disciples that he is going to have to die, Peter tempts Jesus by telling him that this isn’t the Father’s will. This really gets to Jesus, and Jesus responds by rebuking Peter (and Satan, who seems to be behind it all). Then, for good measure, Jesus says, “In fact, not only do I have to die, but anyone who wants to walk with me has to take up their cross and get in line!” Resolve!
Just a few days before the end, Jesus is standing among all the worshipers at the Temple, and he seems to be struggling. He tells everyone that his hour has come, and then he prays, “I don’t know what to say. Father, save me from this hour.” And then, the resolve, “No! It is for this reason I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Every time the chips are down, Jesus goes all in.
Thursday he’s sitting at the dinner table. Before John gets to the action, he spends a lot of time describing Jesus’ thoughts and feelings. We see Jesus sitting there, eating with Judas the betrayer, Peter the denier, power-hungry James and John, and the rest. It’s like the camera comes in for a close-up as John describes: Jesus knew the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father; he had loved his own who were in the world; he loved them to the end; the devil had already put it in the heart of Judas to betray Jesus; Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands; he knew that he had come from God and was going back to God. He knew it. Resolve.
With all this going on inside, Jesus gets up. To spend some time alone? To leave these hypocrites behind? To be sick? No. Jesus gets up in the middle of the meal because he’s resolved to serve, to obey, to love. He takes off his robe and puts on an apron. He gets a pitcher of water and a bowl and he kneels down on the floor. He washes their filthy, calloused feet.
Then, on Friday, he takes care of their filthy, calloused souls…of all our filthy, calloused souls. But while Jesus is the only one who can die this death for the world, he is not the only one who dies. We too must be resolved. We too must go all in. For Jesus, and for you and me, the path to glorious kingdom life leads through the cross, where this world’s anemic and pathetic ideas of glory go to die. Now, Jesus says, at the cross, is the judgment of this world. Now, at the cross, is the satanic ruler of this world driven out. Now. At the cross. The lowest, darkest moment in human history is transformed into a note so bright that it rings and reverberates from creation’s curse to kingdom come. At the cross.
And then the seed goes into the ground. Cold. Dark. Dead.