The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Passion of Jesus Christ, our Saviour


In a stable in Bethlehem a young woman gave birth to a baby boy. Such humble surroundings. Such an inauspicious beginning. But what a journey began there.

Some 30 years later, the baby now a man, he sowed among his people the most profound revolution in human history; different from every other revolution before or since.

His reward, after just three years of love filled ministry, was the hatred of his people’s leaders, a hatred which grew to nakedly murderous proportions.

Betrayed by one of his closest, hand picked followers; sold for 30 pieces of silver, he is bound and brought like a common criminal before the authority of a foreign power.

False accusations made against him, he is subjected to a travesty of a trial.

Condemned. Scourged by cruel soldiers, the flesh is stripped from his body; laying bare his bones. Then treated by those same soldiers with utter contempt, a crown of thorns pressed onto his head, his vision blurred by the pain and by his own blood. They play with him.

Exhausted and in agony he is given a heavy wooden cross to carry, up a hill, through crowds of jeering onlookers, uncomprehending in their frenzy. Three times he falls. Only one brave woman shows him a measure of compassion, wiping his blood and sweat stained face.

On the hill, at a place called Golgotha, the cross is laid on the ground. He is thrown down upon it and nailed to it. The cross is hoisted upright, thudding down into a hole in the ground, racking his ravaged body with yet more spasms of ferocious pain.

And there he is left to die, suffocating slowly, the taunting cries of the people filling his ears; the sour taste of vinegar fouling his parched mouth.

Only the closeness of his heartbroken mother and a few of his beloved friends give him comfort.

He speaks his last words, Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.

He breathes his last breath.

The journey began in that humble stable has ended.

Yet it has not ended. Indeed it never really began in the stable. This journey always was and always will be. For this figure on the cross was Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

And that cross the Incarnate Lord carried up that hill was light, so very light compared to his real burden. For he carried the sin of the world up that hill and onto that cross.

Every bleeding wound on his body a million, million sins.

Every gasping, rasping breath of searing agony a million, million sins.

Every hammer blow on each nail carrying around the hills the echoes of a million, million sins.

I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me, he said. And so the hill of Calvary became the high altar of the world. The altar on which a sacrifice was made so complete and so perfect that no crime is beyond the redemption of the atonement.

The altar from which a Love so completely beyond our imagination reaches out to us.

The altar from which comes our encouragement, our hope, our certainty that God wants us in his heavenly home.

Archbishop Laud said on the scaffold, Jesus Christ traversed the valley of death and as a consequence, we only have to traverse the valley of the shadow of death.

We can never thank Jesus Christ enough for his Passion. We can only try, earnestly and constantly by learning of his life and following his blessed footsteps as closely as we can. His agony calls us at least to do that; to try very, very hard, calling upon God to help us when we falter and fail.

Now to Jesus Christ, sacrificed for us, atonement for our sins, our only Saviour and our living King, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Peter Jardine+
Passion Sunday, 2005