“I am completely trapped.”
These words voice a common theme of the readings this week. Characters get caught in what seem like impossible situations. Then God brings about their delivery in some creative, unexpected way. It’s a fitting lead up to Holy Week.
Susanna gets trapped by two wicked judges. If she complies with their sinful request, she will be condemned by God’s law and her own conscience. If she refuses their request, she will be condemned to death by men. She’s completely trapped.
Part of us would like God to strike the wicked judges dead, or magically lift Susanna to safety. But God does something more creative: He stirs up the spirit of a young man who, through their own testimony, catches the wicked judges in their lie. Susanna, who stayed faithful to God, is saved.
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego get trapped by a pagan king, who orders them to worship a golden statue. If they comply with his request, they will be condemned by God’s law and their own consciences. If they don’t comply, he’ll cast them into the fiery furnace. They’re completely trapped.
We’d like to see God strike down the king, or destroy the golden statue, or free the men and bring them to safety. But God does something more creative: He lets them get thrown into the fire, but sends His angel to protect them so that the fire doesn’t harm them. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, who stayed faithful to God, are saved.
Likewise, this week and next week, Jesus gets trapped by the Jewish leaders. If He says that He’s not the Son of God and doesn’t perform the works the Father gives Him, He will betray His mission. If He says that He is the Son of God and performs the works of the Father, the leaders will crucify Him. He’s completely trapped.
Part of us would like the Father to come down in thunder and teach those leaders a lesson. Part of us would like Him to take Jesus up into heaven and out of harm’s way. But the Father now performs the ultimate act of creativity and power. He doesn’t save Jesus from the cross. Instead He saves Him — and us — through the cross. Jesus, who stayed faithful to the Father, is raised from the dead.
We should remember this pattern. The next time any one of us — or all of us together — face what seems to be an impossible situation, where we feel completely trapped, we should stay faithful to God and trust in His creative and saving hand.
God always saves those who are faithful to Him. But He does it in different ways. Sometimes He saves them from difficulties; sometimes He saves them through the difficulties.
Salvation history is full of God’s creative acts. As we prepare for Holy Week, let’s reflect on God’s creative and saving power. Let’s learn to trust Him more deeply any time we feel trapped. Then we’ll see Him exercise His creativity in our own lives.