Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (The Passion Of Christ)

SESTINA FOR THE PASSION OF CHRIST
(Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 or John 18:1 – 19:42)

He is alone in prayer in the garden, knowing the cost.
His followers care, but flesh is frail and they fail
to fend off sleep as Jesus endures his mortal fear
with faithfulness. This night will bring betrayal,
abandonment, suffering, and ultimately, a cross.
But he will not turn from obeying the will of God.

He is alone in facing trial for blaspheming God.
The religious rulers are determined at any cost
to be rid of this nuisance Jesus. But though they cross
words, set their traps for him, they almost fail.
Judas’ earlier duplicity is matched by betrayal
of truth; and the rest of Jesus’ followers have fled in fear.

He is alone in front of Pilate, but showing no fear.
Is he King of the Jews? Is he somehow from God?
Pilate doesn’t know, doesn’t really care. Betrayal
of justice doesn’t bother him much, the only cost
he worries about is the empire’s peace. Fail
and he’d pay the price; so send this King to the cross,

it’s an easy call. Kill the pest, quiet the Jews. The cross
is just another tool when you rule by fear,
after all, so why be worried about truth? (This fails,
somehow, to ease his mind; but he holds the power of God,
of life and death, so death it will be, at Jesus’ cost.)
And Pilate’s lethal injustice is the final betrayal.

Jesus is alone, crowned with the thorns of betrayals.
He is mocked and whipped and abused, and the cross
is placed on his shoulders, and the high cost
of love mounts the hill of the Skull. Fear
only forgetting love’s suffering; forget not the grief of God,
as the sky grows dark as if the sun itself has failed.

Do the women wonder if faith has failed
as Jesus is laid in the tomb? Is hope’s betrayal
on Joseph’s mind, as he wraps this man from God
in burial cloth? The death of Christ on the cross
for many meant grief, despair and fear;
only later would they understand what was worth the cost:

that we are not alone in times of fear, nor when we fail
– bearing the costs of our small and large betrayals –
nor even in death: for Jesus, God’s Son, died for us on the cross.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

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