Suspended Between Life & Death

The Passion According to Luke

Like Christmas, we know these passion readings like the back of our hands. We know the characters. We know who does what and who doesn’t do things. They’re all of us and we’re all of them. But each of the passion readings also has something signature to them. For Luke, who’s passion we just heard, it’s two thieves that are crucified with Jesus, one on his left and one on his right. There’s one who clings to death and all that comes with it and there’s one who desires life. Smack down in the middle of it all, Jesus, suspended on the cross.

There we are, caught up between life and death, heaven and earth and all that comes with it. The one who clings to death reviles at Jesus. He holds onto bitterness and the sin of passion, criminal is who he is and who he believes he is. Angry, resentful, clinging to all that is dark, a life of hell. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, Jesus cries out. It may not be a physical death that we face at this moment, but we’re there. We’re there clinging to these things in our own life, leaving us dissatisfied with life and wanting to return to what was. It’s all I know and I’d rather be miserable than to change, to let go. There we are, clinging to death.

Yet, on the other side, one who too knows he’s a criminal but sees Jesus as something more. Even for a glimmer, he is one with him. Even for a glimmer, he sees himself as something more, never to be satisfied like the other, clinging to something that is no more. He seeks life. He seek freedom. Today you will be with me in Paradise, Jesus exclaims. Despite his sin and his crime, he seeks life, to be set free, crying out to the Lord, hanging along side and yet with him. There we are clinging to death, desiring life, hanging in between, caught up in the tension of life and death, heaven and earth. There Jesus meets us in the reality of our lives.

Yet, in a moment, Jesus commends himself to the Father and breathes his last. Finished and for good. Or so it feels at that moment. Curtains are torn. Earthquakes erupt. Sun is darkened. Is it any wonder why we’d cling to what we know? Is this the path to life? And so there we are suspended between life and death, filled with choice and desiring what gives life.

As we enter Jerusalem and enter into this Holy Week, we are given the chance to use our imaginations and to see ourselves hanging there. We’re all of them. In the very same instant we can be clinging to death and all that leads us into darkness and at the same time desiring life and freedom. This week we enter into that tension of life and death, a tension we call the greatest of mysteries, the Paschal Mystery, that unfolds for us, within us, and all around us, even at this very moment. The choice to live is ours. The choice to allow Christ to meet us in that pain and where it is we cling to death, in our resentment, our anger, our fear. In this holiest of weeks, we seek life, knowing and understanding it may not come in the ways we expect, and until we surrender, life is but a dream and death remains our reality. Yet, suspended in between is our source of life, gently whispering in the messiness of our lives, surrender ourselves to him, breathe our last, and embrace what follows, life eternal.

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