Last Sunday, we took a brisk walk through the events of Holy Week, using creatively displayed stations set up in the Sanctuary. We began with Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, expressed through dance by three young dancers from Alma College who joyfully and beautifully led the way.
Monday, a furious Jesus cleared the temple; where the gentiles were invited to come and bring their burdens in prayer but were pushed out of the way so the money-making profiteers could ply their trade in sacrificial animals. Can’t you just imagine the bartering and haggling over prices, let alone the smell and noise of frightened animals? Hardly a welcoming place to pray!
Tuesday found Jesus amongst the warm comfort of friends, although a chilly draft had blown in with the presence of Judas and his money-grubbing discourse about the costly perfume Mary had “wastefully” poured over Jesus in preparation for his death.
As on most other days during that week, Wednesday saw Jesus teaching hungry crowds and healing the sick in the temple area –about His Father’s business even as the shadow of the cross lengthened over Him.
Thursday must have been even more confusing for his disciples – preparation for Passover, a celebratory meal remembering how the children of Israel were spared a visit from the angel of death, who at the sight of the shed blood of a spotless lamb smeared on their doorways would “Pass Over”. And that would be the final sign that would free them from 400 years of bondage to their Egyptian overlords. But Jesus radically changed the symbolism of that traditional meal.
Even more mystifying was the moment when Jesus began to wash their feet. After all, it was a servant’s job, and there was apparently no servant in the house! Then hearing Peter’s declaration of his undying love for Jesus, only to be told that in a couple of hours he would deny even knowing Jesus. This is then followed by an unusual prayer meeting that ends with Judas arriving and betraying Jesus with a kiss. A confused Peter then lashes out with a sword, the disciples flee in fear, and Jesus is led away like a criminal. Confusing indeed!
If you happened to see the gut-wrenching “Passion of the Christ”, you’ll know what Friday unleashed on Jesus: An unfair and biased trial, a face-to-face with Pilot, vicious treatment at the hands of cruel, blood-thirsty Roman soldiers, and finally the horrors of a Roman crucifixion!
But what challenges me the most are the unforgettable words Jesus spoke while being dragged through all of this…..
“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing”...
“I tell you the truth, Today you will be with me in paradise.”...
“Dear woman, here is your son,” and “Here is your mother”. ...
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” ...
“I thirst.” ...
“It is finished.” ...
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. ”
No wonder a hardened Roman Centurion who had witnessed Christ’s death, could praise God and say, “Surely, this was a righteous man.”
“For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinner,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The joy that was set before him, dear friends, was you and me! It was the only possible solution to our problem of being separated from our Heavenly father and he willingly chose to be the Way, the Truth and the Life.