Friday, April 06, 2012

An Easter Story Part 1 "Now We Wait"

Don't examine my grammer or my theology too closely, blog readers. I wrote this in a hurry.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Luke 22:41-42 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

The archangel Michael covered his face with his powerful wings and wondered if an angel was supposed to cry. His companion, Gabriel,  leaned far over the parapet and stretched out his great hand as if to reach Gethsemane. “Oh, may I leave now, God of All, and give him a message of your love?’

Assent was given--and the ancient messenger was gone.

Not far away stood Abraham and Moses, silently gazing at the scene below. And Michael saw that Deborah and Miriam had moved to the balcony as well. Others were gathering, a great cloud of witnesses. Behind him, Michael heard rustling and soft murmurs of conversation between many of his fellow heavenly beings. They shared his confusion and concern. Everyone understood that the Anointed One had gone to complete all that was given him to do. And they knew only too well how cruel and capricious life on the world of Earth could be—clouded as it was since Lucifer’s victory over humankind so long ago.

But this? Could this really be necessary? One seraphim was singing softly of the days when the Son was with them in their Heavenly Kingdom. How long it had seemed, even for beings who knew no limitations of time or space. Michael sighed, half longing to be with his fellow servant, Gabriel, and half relieved that he did not have to witness the agony of the Eternal Word who had been sent to live in the world of people. “How long, O Lord?” he wondered. There was no answer from the One on the throne. Just an unusual deep silence.
“Oh, Gabriel, my friend, do your work well! Help him!”

The anguished cry of a human man, Yeshua of Nazareth, reached his ears, “Oh, Father, is there no other way? If it is possible, do not give me this bitter cup! Let it pass from me!” Behind him, the angels grew even more still. Michael wept, something he had never experienced. Could nothing be done to change this?


Even at night the garden was full of the warm scents of spring: blossoming trees, grass, renewed life.  In the cool darkness, Gabriel stood gazing at the three disciples who were near the Lord. Peter was half sitting up, his back against an ancient olive tree. He was snoring, one hand open on the ground beside him, the other clenched in his lap. James was stretched out on his back, and John lay curled like a child.

Gabriel felt a moment of impatience.  Then as the ancient angel looked closer, he saw the lines of strain and the tracks of dried tears on their faces. It had been a strange few weeks for them, full of contrasts and emotional turmoil. They had seen Jesus transfigured and witnessed a glimpse of God's glory on the mountain, had observed as the Master had seemed to deliberately taunt some of the Pharisees, watched Lazarus step from the grave, listened to Jesus assertions that he was going to die, wrestled with Jesus' seemingly inexplicable actions. He sensed the confusion and fear that wrestled with anticipation and hope in their spirits as they dreamed. “Ah, they are sleeping the sleep of exhausted sorrow. They cannot understand.” He felt both pity and compassion for these frail but beloved children of God.

Then he sensed the gathering darkness and tensed. A battle would be waged this night, he knew.

He moved near to the weeping man by the rock, compassion filling his being like a wave of seawater. It was, he knew, partly his own sympathy and partly that of the One above. He knelt and reached a hand to Jesus’ back.

“Beloved of the Father, we all know you are able to endure, to finish  all that is to come.  All that must be done” There was no answer, only a deep groan that seemed to come from the very ground itself. He moved closer, and then he stroked Jesus’ hair as if the human man before him was a child. How strange to feel the coarseness of the hair, the dust, the blood and sweat.

He was awed, for a moment, at the wonder of such a thing. How could the Holy Son be in this flesh? How could he have done this, emptied himself so completely?

Jesus was drenched with sweat and he shivered with cold and--something else. “What if,” the Son of Man whispered, “What if I am wrong about this? Why could they not receive me?”

Gabriel felt a strange sort of shock and surprise as Jesus looked up at him, face contorted with grief and horror. “Oh, Gabriel, how I longed to gather them as a mother hen does her chicks!” The Savior shuddered. “Oh,” he cried out, “oh, they would not! My own, those made in my own image, my dear men and women--and my chosen ones--they would not receive me! Why would they not hear?” Then, after a pause, “What if I am not who I believe I am? What if I am--merely deluded?” His face twisted.

Gabriel was stunned, dismay clouding his perception. After a moment, he understood. Jesus was filling up the cup, experiencing every temptation, every grief, every sorrow. Even doubt, even rejection, even questioning the eternal plan. It had to be. It was part of what would make him the heavenly high priest, able to intercede for humankind with total comprehension.

“We are all watching with you, dear Son of the Father. The angels, the righteous ones from through the ages, and…”he paused, “And the Holy One on the throne.” We will be watching all of it, and waiting for you.“ He glanced back at the sleeping disciples. “We are not asleep , and we are waiting for the completion of your journey and your return to us.”


The kingdom of their great enemy was in a state of excitement. The former archangel, Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness leaned forward towards the garden in a strange sort of mockery of Michael’s posture on the portico above. His hand, like Gabriel’s had done, reached out. Surprisingly, it was smooth and well formed, but deep purplish bruises covered it.
"Ah,” he breathed, “ah, now we shall see who is going to win this ridiculous contest!” He laughed, and behind him the chilling sound was echoed by numberless beings, crouching in the darkness like dogs at a cruel master’s feet. Darkness slowly licked his lips, as if obscenely savoring some forbidden pleasure. His once-beautiful face was twisted in a mockery of what he used to be. He could, when he chose, look beautiful still, sinuous, hypnotic, soothing. But the beauty was a mask, no longer his true visage. On such a night as this one, he stood among his minions with no need to wear any disguises. His eyes grew wide with delight and anticipation.

Suddenly he was gone from his sevants.

He stood behind Jesus in the darkness of Gethsemane, hissing in gleeful spite. “Hail, Anointed One of Israel.  Why are you not celebrating Passover?  Why are you out here,” he glanced at the sleeping disciples with a sneer, "out here all alone?" 

Gabriel wore an expression of wrath that was second only to what the One above, even at this moment, was experiencing. His subdued glow grew intensely bright. His wings extended and his eyes flashed fire. “Begone, Dark Prince. You are not welcome here!”

Near him, Jesus rose to his feet as the angel moved between him and the hissing snake-angel. Lucifer winced at the brightness and his eyes became slits. “Oh no, my old ally and colleague. No, no. Don’t you understand? I'm not going anywhere.”

Gabriel’s hand went to his sword, and then he slowly returned it to its sheath at the instant command from the great throne. “

"Ah yes!” The serpent man hissed again, growing larger as his forked tongue licked towards them. “Ah, I see you do understand, after all.” He smiled, with a horrifying sweetness. “It is my time, foolish archangel" He spat the words. "My time! You will soon wish you had joined us in the rebellion. You will soon be sorry that you chose to stay,” he gestured toward Jesus, “with that one.”

Gabriel stepped toward him. “Be silent!”

And Darkness was gone.

Jesus rose to his feet, took a long breath, squared his shoulders and moved to Gabriel with an expression of gratitude. “I must do the will of my Father. I understand, and I embrace what is coming.” As Gabriel reached for Jesus’ hands, the Master of Storms smiled gently,  receiving the strength that flowed from the throne of El Shaddai to him. “I embrace this, Gabriel. I embrace it even though I despise it, you understand.” He looked to where he knew his friends were sleeping. “All of the humanity in me shudders at the horror of it, not just the pain, but all of it. The mocking, the nakedness, the vulnerability and shame that I must willingly endure.”
It was his  turn to comfort the messenger from his Father. ” I thank you for your assurance that the hosts of Heaven will be watching. I will look past the horror, my friend and servant. I will look past it to the glory. Not only the glory of the heavenly Kingdom—no, even more is the glory of defeating Death. Defeating Darkness and making a way for humankind to return to us. I will look forward, Gabriel, to the joy ahead.”

He dropped the angel's strong hands. As he moved toward his friends, slumbering  in the darkness, he glanced back. “Don’t listen to that evil father of all lies. You will not regret your faithful service to the One who made you.”

Gabriel bowed deeply and was gone.

Jesus spoke to his friends, “Ah, go on, sleep and rest now.” They stirred, looking sheepish as they sat up. “My hour has come.”

The disciples jumped to their feet, hearts pounding and all thought of sleep gone as they heard the approach of many feet and saw the glow of torches through the trees. “My betrayer is arriving with a few soldiers. He does not understand that they will not take my life. I will give it.”

“No, Lord,” Peter cried, “not if I can help it!”


Hours had passed. Hours of deception, lies, sleeplessness, injustice, denial from one who loved him deeply.


Hours of ridicule, fists, slaps, and mocking. Of spittle dripping down his beard. Of unutterable thirst and pain and shocking misery. Of a scourging that would have killed him if he had not been the Master. Of thorns in his head, making it throb to the rhythm of his heart.

And now the worst had come. He had hung, suspended in agony, for hours that seemed like years. The pain he felt had moved beyond what he would have believed possible. He had grieved for his mother, had forgiven the poor people below, blind and deaf and lost in darkness. He had experienced something he had never imagined in all his days and nights as a man of earth--growing, being taught, learning who he was. Nothing had prepared him for the final anguish. He felt alone. Completely alone. Where was the Father?

Had he failed in his mission to the world?

And then it was time. He knew, somehow, it was done. Ignoring the hot agony in his feet, the pain of his lacerated back on the rough wood, the tortured, twisted muscles of his arms, his chest, he heaved himself up one last time and gasped for air.

Michael, Gabriel, the angelic hosts of Heaven, and all the departed ones gasped with him as they leaned forward to listen.

Darkness too, and his evil horde, were filled with a sort of nervous excitement and glee. “Look at him!” he chortled, “Almost done now, my friends. Almost. Can you just taste it? So close now….”

His mocking laugh rose to a perveted, joyful screech that echoed off the rocks and hills, rolled down the valley, swept across the waters. “Almost all mine now! Those fools, thinking they could defeat us. As if Light could ever really be stronger than Darkness.”

And from the man on the cross came the cry, “It is finished.” Jesus, in his last act as the man from Nazareth, Mary's boy, former carpenter, healer, teacher... Jesus turned his tortured face heavenward.

“Father, into your hands I trust my spirit.”

The Prince of Darkness howled in unholy excitement and raised his fists. “Oh yes, Son of God, you are finished all right.”

A Roman soldier fell to his knees in the bloody mud. Mary covered her face and her shoulders shook as she silently endured.  John held her gently. A Pharisee gasped in fear. Zaccheus, former tax collector and puppet of the Romans, burst into tears of anguish. Mary of Magdala sobbed without restraint, holding tightly to her friend Johanna’s hand. Far away, a disciple shuddered, deep sobs shaking his great frame. The Pharisee Nicodemus questioned God. What had his conversation with Jesus all meant?  Joseph of Arimathea made a decision to risk his standing in the religous community—maybe even his life. He was a son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and he would act like one.  He would ask for the body of his rabbi and friend.
In the temple, the great curtain before the holiest place tore from top to bottom, and the walls shuddered and creaked. Outside, Caiphas, standing at the altar with the sacrifice lamb in his hands, fell to the ground as the earth moved beneath him.  One of the nearby Levites shouted, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, maker of Heaven and Earth....have mercy on us" Lightning flashed, rain poured, and the earth, grieving for her creator, heaved and buckled.

Above, the hosts of glory remained silent. Wings were folded. A profound stillness swept over the cherubim, the seraphim, the elders, the prophets, Daniel and his three friends, David, the patriarchs of Israel, the women, and on and on through the numberless crowd who observed this scandalous beauty.

Not a sound echoed in the halls of God’s Kingdom. Never before had the throne room been completely silent. A long moment passed.

Gabriel turned to Michael, “Now, my friend, we wait.”

Part Two is here.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Absolutely beautiful and moving! I found myself there in the garden as well, reaching out in repentance, grateful for what my Savior did for cup runneth over.