Each day in Holy Week I am offering these meditations on the Gospel lesson assigned for that day. They will appear in my forthcoming Shadows, Darkness and Dawn: A Lenten Journey with Jesus, to be published in November by Upper Room Books.
I Corinthians 1:18-31
There were essentially “three crowds” casting their shadows around Jesus during Holy Week. The first crowd were the users, those who just wanted something from Jesus, whether a personal miracle or political transformation—consider theirs the shadow of selfishness. These hailed him outside the city on Palm Sunday, wanted him to seize power and, when he achieved it, spread the wealth. Even some of Jesus’ own disciples were in this crowd at one time or the other: James and John had said, "Lord, grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at the left, when you come into your kingdom."
It could be that the Greeks in today’s gospel reading, Gentile God-fearers, perhaps, were themselves seeking audience for that very same reason: to ask something of Jesus, some sign or service. Whatever it was they were asking, Philip’s reporting of it told Jesus that the time had come.
Just as the arrival of the Gentile Magi signals that the one born King of the Jews was also Savior of the world, these Greeks’ request reveals that the one to be crucified as a threat to peace is actually its Prince.
A second crowd around Jesus comprised the abusers. Theirs is the shadow of malevolence. They hated Jesus and his message, wanted him gone and good riddance. Some of them—and perhaps Judas is to be accounted here—may have been believers at the first, following Jesus and welcoming his teaching. By Holy Week, though, they have rejected him, whether for his peaceful, turn-the-other cheek kind of gospel they considered too docile in the face of Roman occupation, or for his uncompromising God-first platform that seemed too radical a message for the current climate and a danger to the political détente. In either case, as the cheers of the Palm Sunday crowd faded, these malevolent voices amped-up and won the day.
The third and by far largest of the crowds were those who were…unaware. Dwelling in the shadow of oblivion they did not attend the parade on Sunday. They were not at the Temple for the “cleansing” or the debates. They were just too busy with life, with children, with work, with stuff, with whatever it was they were busy with to take much notice at all of anything going on.
A friend concluded his Holy Week sermon by citing the last line of O Sacred Head Now Wounded: “O let me never, never outlive my love for Thee." He confessed that the phrase had haunted him his "conscious spiritual life," wondering what the hymn-writer might have meant, exactly, by that phrase. Was he thinking about death, praying that God would not let him live so long as to grow cold in his religious affections? Or was he acknowledging his place in that third shadow, in that third crowd where most of us find ourselves—so busy with life and its stuff that we are in danger of "outliving" our love to Jesus?
In which crowd do you find yourself? In what way does that shadow darken your spiritual path?