Read: Hebrews 5:7-9
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Throughout the readings for this week, we see the importance Jesus places on fellowship around meals and the provision of food for the poor. We are invited to reflect on God’s wisdom and human wisdom with regard to food and reminded that our food choices connect us to others and that water binds us in many ways. Today, this bleakest day in the Christian calendar, we remember how easy it is for us to reject all these things and turn our back on Christ.
All of the gospels were composed a generation or more after the death of Christ. No doubt there were people in congregations back then who thought to themselves, “If I had been there, I would have stayed by Jesus.” In their own distinct ways, the gospel writers’ subtly point out that virtually everyone who had anything to do with Jesus in that last week of his life failed him, betrayed him, fled from him. We subsequent followers of Jesus have no reason to think that we would have done any better.
Failure is the term and the tone that marks this day for Christians. When we look prayerfully and thoughtfully at our lives and how unsustainable our practices seem to be, it is also hard to avoid a sense of failure. When offered life, a true life offered back to God and each other, time and again we choose death.
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)
Stephen Fowl is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Maryland.