Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, April 17, 2011 (abbreviated)

Matthew 27.38-43
Then two bandits were crucified with him (Jesus), one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him (Jesus), shaking their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.”


  1. The taunt of the chief priests, scribes and elders, “let him come down from the cross now and we will believe in him,” echoes the temptation the satan put to Jesus at the high point of the temple, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here ....” Both attack Jesus at the point of the integrity of his mission, his own conviction of his mission, and both betray the determination not to believe of the speakers. The very taunt is a declaration that they do not and will not believe. When I challenge God: “Do this so I can believe in you,” am I demonstrating the same unbelief? Does this cry, which feels desperate to me, come from the same source in me as is in the mockers? Yet, the cry in my soul is deep; the need I feel is real. It must come out. I cannot pretend it is not there.
    I find another conviction in my soul, the “yet will I trust him,” of Job, of Abraham, of Moses, John and others. It is this certainty, deeper than the cry of desperation, that sets me apart from the mockers. The anguished desire for God to do something specific is real and expressing it is valid. Yet, this deeper certainty, this faith, keeps me expectant even when no act is forthcoming. I am looking for a resurrection, not a fix.

  2. The passers-by were deriding Jesus , essentially calling for proof or evidence that Jesus was the Son of God so that they could ‘believe.” The thing is, seeing is not believing. Seeing is observing, gaining evidence that verifies (or refutes) what one believes. To believe is to have confidence in the truth of something without actual evidence in support of it. It’s interesting that these same onlookers also said, “He (Jesus) trusts in God, let God deliver him now, if he wants to…” To trust is to be convinced, to place your confidence in something, to depend on it, to believe.

    So what does all of that have to do with the woman and child in the picture? What does it have to do with us? If seeing is believing then things look pretty grim for the woman and the child in the desolate housing project in whatever forsaken city. This is what we “see” for children raised in poverty: they have limited access to preventive healthcare, they have chronic health problems such as asthma and anemia, they experience hunger, learning disabilities and delays, score lower on standardized tests, drop out of school and are likely to be poor as adults. This is what we see when we look at the evidence.

    If the woman, and eventually the child, put their confidence in these facts there is every reason to believe they will be reasonable predictors of their future. But, and it is a big but, if the woman , and eventually the child, put their confidence in what they do not see, if they place their confidence in something without actual evidence to support it, they might, they just might have hope. They might be able to imagine – even dream – about a future different from what they see. They might be able to hope.

    Hope is the fruit of believing in what we do not see. Jesus' hope was in the Father. May ours be likewise.