Entry into the City John August Swanson
Holy Saturday is the end. Jesus is dead. His disciples are scattered and disheartened. Where was God? If he couldn’t/wouldn’t be there for this man, what hope I there for the rest of us?
This really is the end. All that’s left now is the Emmaus Road of discouragement and despair. What else is left when God doesn’t even show up for his own Son?
Why did Jesus have to go through this? I mean, he did everything right. This is not a God who can be trusted! One who’d leave his beloved hanging on a cross, dying, aid to rest in a borrowed tomb without a sign of protest or resistance. Yet that’s where we are this Holy Saturday.
I did read something recently which give a different take on this. But it’s far-fetched and implausible. I’m probably just grasping at straws here. But I’ll share it with you anyway. It’s from a series of letters from a senior Tempter in Hell to a junior devil he’s mentoring in the art of spiritual seduction. Screwtape and Wormwood are their names. In the eighth letter to Wormwood Screwtape waxes eloquent about the “troughs” human beings go through and the respective strategies of both the Devil and God. If Screwtape can be trusted, and that’s not a sure thing, right? He’s is a demon, after all. Yet . . . who would know better what God’s up to than a being whose job it is to confound just that divine activity?
Well, here it for what it’s worth.
“But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively
like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.
«And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long.
«Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
Could it be that Jesus’ “abandonment” by God was not a cry of despair but a cry of a mature
faith? Another way of saying what he prayed in Gethsemane about not his but God's will be done?
When we reach those lowest, driest moments is it possible we might find him there rather than
to give up and give in to despair?
Screwtape does give us a reason for why God doesn't just swoop in and save Jesus at the last
minute. But is it believable? Plausible? Jesus did say some funny thing would happen after his death.
But none of us paid much heed to all that. No, the truth is Jesus is dead and gone! What we'll do
now is anyone's guess. It's going to be a long day, I think.