Eccl 3:1-11; Ps 144:1-4; Lk 9:18-22
The martyrs continued the compassion of the Lord Jesus who was always taking time and risking exposure by his own healing ministry. The danger of popularity is not evident until someone wants you dead and your influence finished. For these brave witnesses to the faith the LORD was a rock, a fortress, a stronghold and a deliverer. They trusted that the Lord Jesus would shield them from all harm. No harm touched their souls, they were courageous and faithful even when confronted with a share in the cross of Christ. They were so completely united to Christ that they were willing to be generous unto death. Often they were beheaded for their witness to Christ and their willingness to serve free of charge. The LORD takes notice of the sacrifices of his beloved sons, and their memory summons us to be as generous as the martyrs. Then our life will be more than a breath and our days more than a passing shadow. Many witnesses found the time to heal even as they found the timeless One deep within their hearts. The Son of Man is indeed the Christ, but the Lord Jesus did not want anyone to expect him to fulfill their expectation of being messiah without the cross. Indeed, the cross is our only friend, and we encounter this friend every day we gather at the altar of sacrifice and become one with our Host.
“There is a season,” is much richer in its connotations than the present translation, “There is an appointed time.” Seasons come and go. In every season there are many appointed times. Indeed, the Greeks used two words to refer to time: kairos and chronos. The timely moment, the divine moment, breaks into the steady unfolding of the seconds, minutes, days, months, and years. Indeed, both occur at the same time; there can be no kairos without chronos. It seems that there is no chronos during kairos. Sometimes we experience the appropriate time, the kingdom moment, called kairos, and sometimes we experience the measured movement of time into the future, the chronos. Seasons seem to last longer than appointed times. A season will linger, sometimes within the human heart. Indeed, the human heart does have its seasons and Ecclesiates captures such heartfelt experience when it mentions moments we have all experienced: birth and death, planting and uprooting, killing and healing, tearing down and building up, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, scattering and gathering, rending and sewing, silence and speech, love and hate, war and peace. Indeed the LORD has made all things work together for the love of God. When these painful and delightful seasons linger our hearts are shaped, hollowed, and filled with the glory of the Timeless One. Indeed, the LORD makes room for himself in our hearts. Such is the work which God has done.
Did you ever wonder why the disciples had to be warned three times about the passion and death of the Lord? It is nearly impossible for us to imagine it any other way. Of course the Son of Man must suffer greatly, suffer rejection from all those who matter in society and be executed like a criminal, and rise on the third day. This we can take in stride because we know the ending of the story. Those who followed the Lord Jesus had no clue. Perhaps that’s why the Lord Jesus spends so much time in prayer and solitude. He had to spend time with the Father in the Holy Spirit to deal with his less than helpful disciples. With the Father in prayer, the Lord Jesus could face his future and see the love through the great suffering. Out of one such period of being alone with Abba the Lord Jesus was able to see that those who followed him might not know who they were following. So the conversation opener, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” A crowd can’t speak for itself, but the disciples and the crowd often interacted, and perhaps they even overlapped at times. The response clearly indicates that the Lord Jesus fulfills a prophetic role. He has no fear like John the Baptist. He is preparing the people for the end of the world, as they know it. Still our Jewish brothers and sisters set a place at table for Elijah, just in case he returns to prepare us for the end. All the ancient prophets speak with the authority of God in their hearts and on their lips; the Lord Jesus speaks out of his solitude and intimacy with the Father in the Holy Spirit. After this loosening up, the Lord Jesus asks the question they would have liked to avoid: “But who do you say that I am?” Saint Peter speaks for the disciples, like the disciples speak for the crowd, and he responds, “The Christ of God.” This faith-filled response invites a rebuke from the Lord Jesus. No one will understand this revelation. You must keep it to yourself. Someday you will be able to share this mystery, but not until I have embraced my one companion: darkness, the bright darkness of the cross. Crux spes unica; indeed the cross is our unique friend.