The edge of the Christian life begins on that Thursday before the Crucifixion. For a resident or a pilgrim to Jerusalem that day several thousand years ago, I have wondered if the day was mundane or ordinary, just another Passover, celebrated many times before, with its accompanying family and cultural traditions; probably like so many of us look at Easter weekend now. Could it have been imagined that evening, that God himself was re-altering the covenant, in a small room to an unlikely group of followers?

I think it was Dorothy Sayers who compared the days of Jesus as like an invasion of a hostile enemy, coming to liberate and to fight his enemies. What an unlikely special forces team it was that assembled that night in the upper room to receive their instructions, where surely almost none of them believed what Jesus was really saying, with one to betray him to death and another to deny him publicly to even the least influential members of society. But that is what we are told, that and the agony of the Garden, as the assurance of victory in this invasion was to be one by the most awful means possible.

George Herbert says it well in his poem, “The Agony”

Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

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