By the end of the week, people are shouting “Crucify him, Crucify him.” By the end of the week, Jesus will have gone down in defeat, no longer Messiah, no longer king, but nothing.
Things happen that way sometimes.
Near the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, Jesus gives us his job description. He goes home to preach at the synagogue in the town where he grew up. He reads from Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Spirit has anointed me to preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” This happens only in the Gospel of Luke. Everybody likes these words. They want to hear good news, recovery of sight, especially for them. But Jesus makes clear that the power and the healing of God is not just for them. It is for all of us.
So he says the power of God also comes to people who are different from us, like foreigners such as the widow of Zeraphath.
Jesus says that the life of God also comes to our enemies, like Naaman the Syrian, general of an enemy army, who had invaded Jewish territory, who had taken Jewish people as slaves. God comes to people like that, sometimes before God comes to us.
People get so mad they want to throw Jesus off a cliff.
Throughout the gospel of Luke Jesus fulfills his job description. He heals the sick, he gives sight to the blind, gives hearing to the deaf, gives wholeness of body to those who are sick and who have leprosy, gives peace of mind to those whose souls are torn back and forth by the roaring of demons.
He makes clear, again and again, that this power of God, this healing of God is for everyone, and particularly for people who are outside, left behind, not like us.
People want to kill him for it.
It seems like yet another repetition of the same old routine. Someone stands up for the truth, they get swatted down. They stand up for the truth, get swatted down.
Except for Luke, this time is different. For Luke, Jesus really is the Messiah, the king. Only this is a very strange messiah, a very strange king. Instead of manipulating people’s lives in order to gain victory, Jesus gives up victory and goes down to defeat, so that other people can live.
Instead of manipulating the truth in order to build up his own image, make himself appear glorious, Jesus gives up glory and goes down to humiliation so that people can see the truth.
Even on the cross, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Only in Luke.
Even on the cross, when the criminal says to him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Only in the Gospel of Luke.
Over the centuries, people have described what happens at the cross in many ways. Jesus is the payment of our debt that we incurred by sinning. Jesus is the testimony of freedom, that God’s work and God’s dreams keep on going no matter what. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice, who binds up the relationship with God which has been broken. Jesus is the one who shares our suffering, even our death, the accompaniment in suffering, that even when bad things happen, God still loves us. Jesus is the swindling of the devil. The world lay under the power of Satan, but Jesus brought it out of that power so that we could be God’s people. Jesus is the healing of the world.
However you may look at it, the cross is a wonder, a mystery that changes everything.
For the time being, also, it is a wonder that crumbles down into complete defeat, like things do for us human beings. For a while there is only silence, nothing o say or do. Nothing.