SURPRISED? WHAT WERE THEY EXPECTING?
One of the more overlooked themes throughout Holy Week observations, I believe, is the idea that Jesus shows up in unexpected places in unexpected ways that unnerved everyone from the 'good church people' to the politicians to the disciples to the crowds gathered on Palm Sunday & Good Friday to the ladies who were, in a severe understatement, stunned that the tomb was empty.
As we are now on the Tuesday evening of Holy Week, my hope and prayer for Christians everywhere is that we aren't in such a hurry to get to Easter Sunday that we miss where all Jesus shows himself this week and how Jesus is shown in these various places and why paying attention to these appearances is so crucial to our celebration of Easter.
The most tragic part of Holy Week I have noticed over the years is people's, for lack of a better word, indifference to the various services in Holy Week. In each of the Holy Week observances, starting with Palm Sunday (where NO ONE expected him to enter on the back of a donkey,) Jesus is showing a totally unexpected but in hindsight totally understandable side. For instance:
On Maundy Thursday, we encounter a Christ who washes the feet of his disciples, who are totally stunned and, in Peter's case, a bit indignant. We see a savior who exudes and demands humility.
On Maundy Thursday, we encounter a Christ who gathers for a traditional meal (the Passover) and makes the most consequential declaration of his entire earthly ministry - "...for you...for many..." We see here a glimpse that Christ's love is for ALL, not a select few.
On Maundy Thursday, we encounter a Christ who is both intimate and communal. Jesus' individual hospitality in the foot washing is complimented by his sharing the sacrifice of bread and cup in the communal meal. We see here that Christ relates to us on individual and communal levels.
On Good Friday, we encounter a Christ who submits himself to the authority of the world, knowing that in the end his love is more powerful than the world's deepest hate. We see that in stark contrast to getting caught up in the immediacy of earthly matters ours is to focus on the bigger picture of God's eternal redemptive work.
On Good Friday, we encounter a Christ who underwent torture for those who really could, in complete honesty, care less. We see here that obedience to God's redemptive work is far more important than our individual comfort and convenience.
On Good Friday, we encounter a Christ who utters what is, in practice for most all of us, the most nonsensical words He ever uttered - "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." These words are nonsensical to us, for so often we allow ourselves to wallow in anger and pity because of the wrongs that others do to us. We see here that forgiveness is to be our focus in all things, for who in the world are we to say we cannot (or, even more destructively, WILL NOT) forgive when He, while it was going on, asked forgiveness for those who were literally killing him.
Listen, let's have a bit of reality here...there's no doubt in mine or anyone else's mind that Easter Sunday is AWESOME. There's no doubt in mine or anyone else's mind that our days are long and the idea of going to worship at 6:00PM on a Thursday night AND Friday night on the same week is a bit much considering all that our daily journeys entail.
Let's make sure to balance those feelings out, however, with remember there are essential truths about the one who's resurrection we will celebrate Sunday that are found in these two sacred services.
Don't miss them. I promise - your celebration of Easter will only be enhanced as you come and journey through these sacred days.
Neither service will be at all similar to the other, and neither will be similar to either service last year. Both, however, will properly frame Easter Sunday.
Grace and Peace, Lamar
P.S. Oh, and about the picture above? Yes, it did inspire this column - for who expects Jesus to show up like THAT? The statue is called Jesus the Homeless, a work of art created by a Canadian sculptor and devout Catholic named Timothy Schmalz. Rather than tell you any more, I strongly urge you to check out the story behind the statue as shared by National Public Radio. It's worth the read, I promise.