Summary: When the God-man is troubled, He is troubled like nobody before or after Him.
Tuesday of Holy Week 2020
A sharp sword, a polished arrow
The Church today asks us to contemplate Our Lord Jesus Christ on this Tuesday after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. First we hear the words of Isaiah, written hundreds of years before as a contemplation of the ideal Israel, who was called by God even before being born, who was to be a sharp sword and a polished arrow. These weapons would be hidden away but would in God’s time be revealed, and who would be the glory of the Lord on earth. And at that time Israel would be a strong beacon seen all over the earth, who would not only bring all the people of Israel together, but do the same for all the peoples of the earth.
That was the ideal Israel conceived in the mind of God. But the real Israel had not lived up to divine expectations, and God had allowed that nation to be chastised by its enemies and put under foreign rule over and over again. They would then turn back to God as their refuge and strength but fall away from His true worship pretty quickly. It was a cycle that in the first century AD was another low point, with the Roman boot upon the land, taxing the people and constantly reminding them that they were second or third-class. The religious leaders were pious on the outside but corrupt on the inside–even the High Priest was the head of a coalition that ultimately plotted to murder this upstart Messiah from Galilee, this Jeshua ben Iuseph, who had recently deceived the people into thinking He had raised His friend Lazarus from being dead for three days.
Look forward with John the evangelist a couple of days to Jesus celebrating a somewhat abbreviated Passover with His disciples. We get a look into His mind and heart. Don’t run by the words “He was troubled in spirit.” Remember that Our Lord was a divine person who had a perfect human nature united mysteriously with His divine nature. When the God-man is troubled, He is troubled like nobody before or after Him. The Greek word is the same one used by Matthew to describe the vile despot Herod’s disposition when He heard that a new king of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. It’s a word used of the feelings an army might have when going into battle. It’s the feeling that Jesus warned against when He says in the next chapter of John, “let not your hearts be troubled.” Jesus was troubled in spirit because He knew that the battle was beginning that the Father had known about and planned from the beginning of time, from the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. His betrayal by Judas would be the opening salvo. The pain of that betrayal, and of Peter’s, and of the other disciples, and the agony of the lies against Him, and the cries of “crucify Him” by the people He loved, would crush Jesus in spirit. The beatings and stripping and crowning with thorns, the spitting and thrashing as He carried His cross, and the pounding of the nails and erection of the humiliating execution tree–the cross–all these were troubling to the core of His existence. Yes, Jesus was troubled in spirit, beyond anything we may have experienced or will experience in life. His divine nature did not make Christ immune to the experience–it must have intensified it farther than we can imagine.
But, as St. John points out more than once, when Jesus was raised on the tree of the cross, it was His glorification. The cross would be Christ’s throne of glory. The Son of Man is glorified by every stroke of the lash, every strike of the mallet, every curse of the onlookers. Because you can’t keep God in the ground, and when the deathless Christ revealed Himself after the Resurrection, He summoned each of us, baptized into Him, to live in our day the life that He lived in the first century. Yes, we will be rejected–perhaps by the majority. Yes, we will suffer. Yes, we may even die for the faith of Christ. But the last scene of the movie has already been written and shot and edited and put in the can. As Christ rose from the dead, so shall we, and we shall be united with the Blessed Trinity forever, body soul and spirit, just as the Blessed Virgin was at her death.
In these days, perhaps the entire human race is troubled in spirit by the pandemic that has spread over the face of the earth. If all one lives for is what is here in this earthly life, the collapse of a stock portfolio, or the temporary loss of work, or even the sickness and death of a loved one can be troubling beyond imagination. But if we accept the grace of Christ to live as Christ, even that trouble can be borne, and can be a step towards glorification. May God be praised forever.