Confused. Exhilarated. Perplexed. Sad. Angry. Doubting. Victorious. Indignant. Despairing. Faith-filled. Questioning. Busy.
Do any of these words describe you on this first day of Holy Week? As I carefully re-read the gospel writers’ accounts of Jesus’ disciples and friends in the days before his entry into Jerusalem (celebrated yesterday as Palm Sunday in churches around the world), I saw myself. In fact, I could apply a number of those adjectives on an hour-by-hour basis some days!
In his book The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan describes God this way: …the God who is surprising, dangerous, mysterious, alongside us though we fail to recognize Him, then disappearing the minute we do so… God doesn’t always make sense of our sad or bland lives, our calamities and banalities, but (he) keeps meeting us in the thick and thin of our lives.
No better description of this week before the cross: thick and thin. And all the adjectives above sink deep into our souls if we are honest. But as we blindingly race with anticipation toward Easter with its chocolate, new clothes and hallelujah choruses, we’re tempted to ignore the reality of the days before the cross. Few of us take time to grieve with the weeping woman of Bethany, recognize Peter’s stubborn-yet-misplaced faith, face our own unanswered prayer in the bewilderment of the disciples.
Many years ago I celebrated Easter less than two weeks after standing at the grave of our son. Never was the shout of “He is risen!” more meaningful as I exclaimed the promise through tears. Never did I need—or experience—God-produced faith more deeply than in that small assembly of people who walked alongside us during the bleak, dark days. Never were the words “Though he slay me, yet I will trust him” wrung out of me with the thundering force that I would experience only rarely in the years since.
In your own walk toward Resurrection Day, do not miss following Jesus this week. Closely examine both his human grief at what lay ahead and his astounding belief in his surprising, dangerous, mysterious, loving Father. Imagine the quandary of the disciples as they find a donkey, prepare a meal, submit to foot washing.
A very practical way to experience Easter anew is to place yourself in the Holy Week story as literally as possible. Substitute your name for those found in the gospel accounts. Your name instead of Peter’s. Become Pilate. (Or his wife.) You are Mary the Mother or Mary the Magdalene. Turn into Thomas hiding behind a tree near the cross. (My own imaginative place for him!)
On your way to Easter, don’t miss Holy Week.