"Putting on Christ" - A Reflection on the Passion of Christ
A man stands naked and bloody in a court. He is being whipped, beaten, spit upon, mocked, and jeered. What did he do to deserve this treatment? Did he kill someone? No, in fact, he brought a few people back from the dead. Was he cruel and despicable to the poor and widowed? Again no, he actually went out of his way to help them, and even encouraged others to do the same. What, then, did he do to deserve this? He taught peace, love, and obedience to his father. Now, I am sure many of you are thinking who would do this to such a righteous man. And in case you have not figured it out, I am talking about Jesus Christ. The people who would do this to him are the ones that had the most to lose, namely the chief priests, elders, and scribes of the temple. But, they could not affect this atrocity on their own, they needed help. And in order to get help, they turned to the once place they knew they could impose their will… the people.
People are a strange entity. As individuals, people can be calm, loyal, rational and independent. It is when a group comes together that individuals loose themselves and become the collective. This collective then can become dangerous because they have the potential to blindly follow anyone who steps up into a leadership position. They become sheep looking for a shepherd. This mentality is how the temple leaders were able to persuade the Jews to turn against Jesus and do all of these nasty things to him.
But, how is it that these people, who were not only kind towards Jesus, but also followed him and sought him to do miracles for them, turned so quickly against him? It is simple… a lack of faith. Sure, it says in the gospels that many people had faith, and that is why their requests from Jesus were granted. We see that in the lady with the hemorrhage who only touched his garment and was healed. We also see that with the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant. Their faith in Jesus was so great, that it let the Holy Spirit work through Christ to achieve their desires. But what of them after their wishes were granted? Did they still have faith in him and believe in him? I cannot presume to speak for them.
If we look to ourselves, we can ask the same question. When we get what we want, are we thankful for just what we have received, or are we thankful for all things? How deep is our faith in Christ…In God? Would we be willing to sacrifice everything for the Lord as he sacrificed everything for us? Or would we be like the Jews who got what they wanted, and then, when a more traditional leader came along, turned their backs on Jesus and even had him put to death? A great example of someone never losing faith, no matter how much adversity was put on him and no matter what was taken away from him is illustrated in the Old Testament book of Job.
Job was a man who was blessed with 7 sons and 3 daughters, and a farm with livestock that would make many of today’s farmers jealous. The devil decided to test Job by going to God and asking God to take away all of Job’s blessings to see if he would still be faithful. Slowly, Job’s possessions started to disappear. His oxen and donkeys were taken by raiders, his sheep and servants were burned by fire, and his camels were then stolen. On top of that, a tornado came along and knocked the house down on top of his children while they were feasting. God even went so far as to let the Devil take away everything except his life. Normally, this would have devastated a person, but Job said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Faith is not the only thing keeping us from turning on the Lord. The apostle Peter was faithful to Christ, but still found himself denying 3 times that he even knew Christ. There is something that can overpower faith, and that is fear. Fear is the great compromiser. Fear can make any of us not do something that we are positive is good for us or beneficial to society. Fear comes from doubt and selfishness. I say selfishness because we are too concerned with what others think about how we show ourselves in public. This idea of self-image is exactly what the devil wants us to focus on. Even the most pious people have to deal with this temptation.
The one person who did not care about what others thought of him was Jesus. He made choices that were not always seen as popular, and had to defend them; for instance, when he chose to eat with the tax collector. This action was seen as highly unfavorable, but in his eyes was completely necessary. He could have listened to his disciples and others and chosen to dine with more desirable people. But, he knew what his mission was and decided to be with those who needed him most. This example of selflessness in only one of many that Jesus displayed during his life on earth.
We all need to follow this example of selflessness. In addition to this, we must also have faith. These two things in conjunction are a strong weapon to fight off the temptations of the world. It is especially important for us to focus on this during the Lenten season. This is a period for spiritual renewal. It is also a time when we are under attack the most from demonic influences.
The end of Lent is fast approaching. If we have fallen short of our goals, it is not a reason to be discouraged. We must, instead, re-dedicate ourselves to self-betterment and seeking spiritual cleanliness. Even those who show up during the 11th hour to toil are remembered as those who showed up during the first. There is no difference as long as you make an honest, heart-felt effort. We must now prepare ourselves to go through the upcoming Passion Week as our Lord did. We must prepare to sacrifice all that we have in order to gain even more than we can imagine. We must become the one who is being beaten, whipped, mocked and jeered. Only by going through such tribulations can we fully put on Christ.
- Seminarian & Subdeacon Greg Robel