This week we are celebrating Holy Week – the last week of Jesus’ life here on earth. Typically during this week we focus on how Jesus and His disciples spent those days. We began on Sunday, focusing on the Triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. During this week, we will likely look at the cleansing of the Temple, the cursing of the fig tree, the parables and teachings of Jesus during that week, Jesus being anointed by perfume, the last supper, Judas’ betrayal, the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest, trial, and torture. We will finish by looking at the crucifixion itself, in anticipation of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
These are all events of that last week that we discuss, and we study, and we analyze in an attempt to understand what it was like to be a part of Jesus’ last days here on earth. But, this year, I am thinking more about the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of all those involved in these events. I am trying to imagine how it felt to stand among that cheering crowd, watching Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. If I were one of Jesus’ followers, would I feel proud and justified when it seemed the whole world finally recognized His importance? Did the disciples think, “See, Jesus, all that stuff you said about death and persecution can’t be true. The people love you!”?
I wonder how the people accepted the parables and teachings that Jesus gave them that week. Did they understand the prophetic nature of what He was saying? What would I have thought if I were at the table when the woman came in and broke the jar of perfume over Jesus’ feet? Would I have agreed with the disciples, being indignant over the obvious waste of money and resources, or would I have recognized the beauty and worship inherent in that act?
I wonder if the same people who cheered for Jesus on Sunday were part of that mob who, on Friday, yelled, “Crucify Him!” I would like to know what they were thinking. Were they just caught up in the mob mentality, going along with the group, or had something happened to change their mind about Jesus in less than a week?
I feel like I know how Peter felt when the rooster crowed that morning. Always bold and outspoken, Peter had declared so bravely that he would NEVER disown Jesus. When that rooster crowed, and Peter realized that he had denied knowing Jesus three times, just as Jesus said he would, I’m sure that instantly, Peter was not only filled with shame, remorse, and regret, but maybe a bit of wonder that Jesus had known.
Most of all, I think about the thoughts that went through Jesus’ mind that week. I know that He was fully human and fully divine, and that makes me wonder how His mind worked. From His prayer in the garden, we know that He didn’t want to go through with the pain and suffering of the cross, but He subjugated His will to His Father’s. Being God, I’m sure He knew everything that was coming, but I wonder if He sometimes balked at it. Did His humanity make Him a bit angry that week, knowing what He was about to go through for these people who didn’t even care for Him? Did He try to figure out some way for God’s will to be done without Judas betraying Him? As a man, he had these twelve disciples who were closer to Him than anyone. Was He frustrated that they didn’t understand His teaching? Although He knew the pain and suffering was coming, was the divine side of Him happy because He would soon be with His Father again?
I know that I’ll never really have any of these answers. It’s probably best that I don’t understand it all. But, thinking about things in this way helps me to put myself in the middle of this week we call Holy Week, and try to make some sense of how I am feeling. It’s a bit of an enigma for me. When I try to identify with the man Jesus who walked on this earth; who had friends and family; who taught others; who would soon go through so much pain and suffering; and who knew it was coming, yet allowed it to happen, I am profoundly sad. It hurts my heart to realize the terrible agony and humiliation that Jesus suffered for me. And yet, at the same time, my heart is full of joy and triumph because I know that only because of Jesus’ pain and suffering, followed by His resurrection, can I have the promise of eternal life! At one moment, my heart feels the hurt and the joy of what Holy Week symbolizes. To me, it is an enigma.
Let me be the first to say – a few days early – Happy Resurrection Sunday. He is Risen!