Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Week

Holy Week and Lent are coming to an end as we look forward to Easter tomorrow. I think it's my favorite week of the year. We begin with Palm Sunday and Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and progress through Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper into Good Friday and the Crucifixion into Holy Saturday as Jesus lies in the grave and the disciples hide in fear. In his essay on fairy stories, Tolkien described the gospel story as the ultimate fairy story. Jesus enters the city to the acclaim and praise of the crowds. All turns on Thursday night. After sharing the Passover with his disciples and commanding them to love one another as he loved them (hence "Maundy" Thursday derived from the Latin "mandatum" or "command") he is betrayed in the garden and given over to his enemies. The powers of darkness grow from strength to strength as they try, torture, and eventually kill Jesus and the light of the world goes out. The shepherd is stricken and the sheep scatter. On Saturday darkness and silence reign. All is lost. On Sunday morning Jesus animated with the new life to come bursts from the tomb and the end of the powers won on Friday in the midst of blood and death is proclaimed. It is the great eucatastrophe, the sudden turn from evil to good. In a classical play it is the deus ex machina, the god from the machine, only this is deus in homini, the God in man, and he shall reign forever more. But today it's still Saturday, darkness reigns, "low in the grave he lay."

On Monday in my lifegroup we studied Isaiah 52:13-53:12 which sums up the whole week from Palm Sunday to Easter and beyond. The arm of God has been revealed, the instrument of Israel's deliverance is at hand. It is a man of sorrows who will die for their iniquities, who will be cut off, who will be buried. But who will yet see light and be apportioned the victor's spoil. Who can believe this message?

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

13Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14As many were astonished at you--
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind--
15so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

1Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)


Becca said...

eucatastrophe? Did you make that up?

53:4-6 is tickling my brain. That's a song, right? But a different translation? Did we used to sing this on Maundy Thursday service?

Everett said...

Especially in the King Jimmy Version that's a very well known passage and is used in a lot of songs. Those verses in particular are featured in the Messiah.
Tolkien probably coined "eucatastrophe" in English, it's not in the OED so there's not an English etymology. According to Liddle & Scott it appears in adverbial form in Classical Greek.

ann said...

I love this whole post so much.

Everett said...

Thanks, Ann.

Tara said...

Hey Everett,
Jim's been meaning to call you, but life has gotten really busy. You can email me and I'll fill you in. Or call the cell. TK