Today is Palm Sunday and is the beginning of Holy Week, that week in the church year where we acknowledge and celebrate Jesus’ journey to the cross and eventual resurrection. It is also the end of the Lenten season, a period of sacrifice, repentance, renunciation, and fasting.
When I think of Jesus during this time, I think about how he prayed in Gethsemane in great sorrow because of his impending suffering; how he was betrayed by a friend for 30 silver coins; how he underwent an unjust trial filled with false testimony yet didn’t defend himself; how he was mocked and beaten; and how he carried the same cross to Golgotha on which he would be publicly crucified.
This same Jesus forgave the thief crucified next to him; and forgave even those who took it upon themselves to put him to death and those who stood and jeered at the foot of the cross. And entrusted his mother to the apostle John. The night before this same Jesus washed the feet of his disciples who would desert him at his arrest.
I also think, of course, of the great Sunday morning reversal, when upon visiting Jesus’ tomb, the women found it empty. I think of the dismay and joy of the disciples when they experienced their risen Lord.
What do we make of all this? What do we do with it? How do we live because of it?
Our lives in this world as followers of Jesus are our version of Holy Week. We live on this side of resurrection and eternity. We experience sorrow, distress, betrayal, pain, unjust treatment, and eventually death.
Do I grieve with hopelessness? Do I try to get even with those who hurt me? Do I try to numb myself to the hurts of life? Do I live as though only this life matters?
Much of the world does.
Jesus certainly didn’t.
Luke 9:23-24 says:
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.”
We live through our Holy Week following in Jesus’ footsteps because that is the path to our resurrection. We die now to live forever later. We lose ourselves so that we might truly gain our lives. What feels now like dying and losing will eventually be reversed. Mourning will turn to dancing. Grief to joy. Death to life.
That’s the promise. That’s the hope. And that’s what Holy Week and indeed the whole Christian life is about.