We like to be in control. Everywhere. All the time. Now in truth we do possess some limited oversight of a small portion of our known universe, quite a small portion really, primarily what we choose to say and what we choose to do. In reality, that just about sums up the totality of what we have actual control over. From the moment we understand the concept and are able to say “no,” we are led to believe mistakenly that the part of the universe over which we possess control can only expand. Granted there will be more decisions and choices for us to make, but mostly because mom and dad no longer want or can make them for us. And it must happen for us to mature and become independent. Now I have come to discover that the notion of control is nothing more than an illusion. We might think that we will worry less the more control we exert. But it’s really just the opposite. We will only worry less when we finally accept that there are things we will never control. True inner peace and joy come not from our control, but from trusting that One greater than ourselves is in control, so we don’t have to be.
Speaking of which, when we read from the gospel of John, it appears Jesus is a lot more confident about who he is and what he is all about. In John’s account of the passion more than anywhere else, Jesus is in complete command of everything taking place about him. We have seen Jesus sometimes portrayed as the unwitting victim of the envy of the scribes and Pharisees, of the fear of the Roman authorities for some potential political uprising, and of the betrayal of Judas. We have also come to believe that we made Jesus suffer and die against his will for our selfishness and sins. But then in John’s recounting of the passion, Jesus is always fully aware of what’s going on.
In the garden of olives, he had no misgivings. Nowhere do we see him asking the Father to take the cup of suffering away. Nor does he fault his disciples for not staying awake to keep watch with him. When the soldiers and guards come with Judas to arrest him, he tells them decisively, “It is me you want. So let these others go.” When Peter cuts off the ear of a high priest’s slave, he tells him to put away his sword. “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” When he comes before the high priest who asks about his teaching, he is unapologetic, “I have always spoken for all the world to hear. Ask those who heard me what I said.” He seems more than a bit defiant, if you ask me, for a person who didn’t get that he was not the one calling the shots.
When Pilate asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?,” Jesus answers with a question. “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate shoots back, “Then you are a king?” “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Again, not a hint of submission in his voice, which is probably unsettling for Pilate. And when he hears that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God, he is even more afraid. Jesus would not explain, which likely irritates Pilate. “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” If that is meant to intimidate Jesus, it has no discernible effect. “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.”
When he is handed over to be crucified, the gospel tells us Jesus carries the cross by himself to the Place of the Skull. He doesn’t fall once. There is no Veronica to wipe his face, no Simon of Cyrene to help carry his cross. When he gives his mother to the care of the disciple whom he loved, he appears more concerned about her welfare than his own. At the moment of his choice, he declares, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he hands over his spirit. To the end, we see Jesus fully alert and aware and ever an active agent in the unfolding of his own narrative.
So on this day that the entire Christian community remembers and celebrates the greatest act of love the world has ever seen, we are not to be sad; we are not to hang our heads in grief. Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Israel of healing and restoration. He embraced willingly God’s grand design, and invites us to imitate his obedience to God’s will, and to partake in his own passion and death for the life of the world. By his offering of self, he proves that God will not be outdone in generosity, that darkness and death will not have the last word, and that we have power from him to resist evil, to overcome our weakness, and to live fully as God’s daughters and sons.
Jesus was always confident and never wavered in his conviction of the Father’s love for him. He put absolute trust in God that even in his darkest hour, he never lost his focus or his peace. We have even less control of what happens in our own lives than Jesus ever had in his. But we can know a similar peace as he experienced if we are willing to imitate his unwavering trust in God. There is still much that God leaves for us to determine, what we are to say, how we are to act, and how we are to respond when the world around us has only darkness and hostility to offer. Our selfish pride and self-righteousness tells us we cannot look weak, and have to go down fighting to the bitter end. But if we are more concerned about doing God’s will instead of our own, the choice will fall between our exerting control or our possessing God’s peace. If we can trust completely in One greater than ourselves, we should not worry excessively about being in control, and we will truly know God’s peace.
Rolo B Castillo © 2018