“The way to the tree of life”

“The way to the tree of life”
By Joe McClane

My entire life, even growing up in the Church of Christ Sunday school, when I thought of Jesus’ passion and death, I have thought of him as a helpless victim.  The weak, beaten, emaciated, frail, man who was dragged through the streets of Jerusalem, taken outside the walls, stripped naked, then nailed to the cross; helpless!   This never really sat well with me; as a man I do not like to see Jesus weak, and helpless. I always winced when I read St. Matthew 15:34, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. My lack of understanding on this verse plagued me with great doubts about our Lord.  I didn’t know he was quoting Psalm 22…  rather, on the surface, it was a cry of desperation. Was the King of Kings really that weak? Surely not! Could he be?

The more I study the Catholic faith, mediate on the Gospels, and contemplate the life of Jesus the more I’m convinced that Jesus was a United States Marine.  Sounds strange to read that hu?  But, when I read passages like John 18:1-12 I see not a weak, helpless victim but, rather, the man that inspires me to face off with an overwhelming, armed, and highly motivated, enemy hell bent on taking me down.   In the face of just such a situation, in a Garden, our Lord went and faced off with the cohort come out to arrest him.  Unlike Adam, who also was in a Garden and faced with the real threat of an intruder, Nahash, the serpent of old (Rev. 12:9), cowered, and allowed Eve to do all the talking. Then, when confronted by our Lord, walking in the Garden, in the cool of the Day (Gen. 3:8), hid in a bush, and blamed his troubles on the Woman, whom God gave to him! This was all God’s fault!

Jesus, the last Adam, does not cower, does not allow someone else, especially Mary, the new Eve, to do the talking…. No Jesus looks them dead in the eye and says “Whom do you seek” (vs. 4)? “Jesus of Nazareth”, they reply, eager to set the trap, and ambush our Lord with their mob that was now encircling him.  Does Jesus “barter a better deal with the “Band of Solders” before he tucks tail and runs” (to steal a line from Braveheart)?

No; our Lord leans in… with a Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood from “Heart Break Hotel”), teeth clenched, growl, squinted eyes, and a grimaced face, and says, “I AM”!  Well, at least that’s the image that comes to my mind anyway.  Recalling Psalm 56:9 “Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call. This I know, that* God is for me.” The very name of God, the great “I AM”, turns the hunters into the hunted!  No… Jesus does not cower, or retreat when found in the “kill zone”, but rather, like a good Marine, counter attacks, and overwhelms the enemy with superior fire power.   He is not weak, emasculated, emaciated, or a victim, but rather strong, in control, and a man on a mission!  This is the Jesus that speaks to my heart… he inspires me, and motivates me.  This is the man I long to be… courage, conviction, devout, sacrificial, and resolute.

When St. Peter draws his sword (vs. 10), to defend our Lord in battle, “11 Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’” I will drink it! Jesus proclaims with boldness.  Jesus knew what was to come, the fight of all time, the taking of the hill, and yet he accepts it bravely with out wavier.  In commanding Peter to drop the sword our Lord clears the way to the true garden, his heart, and the true tree of life, the cross on Calvary, so that we may be drawn to him, take, eat of the fruit of the womb, his flesh and blood, and have life (Gen. 3:22-24)!

As a former Marine, I recognize an order when I hear it… Mark 8:34 “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus wasn’t dragged to Calvary helplessly; no… he marched on Calvary as a King before his army!   Like a Marine, our Lord leads the way in the fight.  The question is; will you fight with him? Will you take up your cross today and march on Calvary, or will you lie down, cower in the face of a ferocious, and uncompromising enemy, and die? “Fight, and you may die.  Run, and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… our FREEDOM (Another line from Braveheart)!

Today, decide to fight! Don’t be silent, like the coward Adam, refusing to call upon God for help, rather be like our Lord who, pulls himself up on his nails, digs deep down, enduring the pain, to draw a breath, and proclaim “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”! The first verse of Psalm 22 which starts in despair, yes… but, ends in triumph. Do not be like the coward Judas, who leads the “band of solders” out, then betrays our Lord with a kiss. No,  today take up your cross and follow our Lord as we assault Calvary. Chose to fight and seek holiness today; that is the Calvary we must conquer. Its a daily choice… fight or die; you decide.  I will see you on the Hill!

About the Author:

Joe McClane – The Catholic Hack! – is the director and events coordinator for Fullness of Truth Catholic Evangelization Ministries, as well as an a Catholic New Media producer & Evangelist. He is married to his lovely wife Michelle and they have five children. The Catholic Hack | Catholic Apologetics, Theology & More!