A Holy Week meditation.
It is a hard story to hear.
The passion narrative.
Especially told in its entirety.
Beginning with Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. The unplanned and humble procession. The hurried welcome of his followers. It was a mimicry of the kind of lavish processions held when the Roman emperor came to town.
Everything he did was a counterpoint to the earthly, imperial way of life that held sway over that little country.
We think of Jesus and his band of disciples as BIG NEWS in Galilee. Making headlines in the local papers; causing a media firestorm what with the miracles and healings and large gatherings…
In fact, Jesus and the early community of his followers were a tiny minority, an overlooked group group of oddballs existing on the margins of society. On the sharp edge of life where nothing is safe and danger lurks around every corner.
Those people, his disciples and followers, dusty peasants and subsistence farmers; desperate women forced to sell their bodies and widows begging for food to feed their children; tax collectors living under the thumb of the government’s threats.
And yet… it was the strength of his message, his insistence, his stubbornness, his willingness to put himself in the line of fire by marching straight to the Temple courtyard to voice his protests, that brought him to the attention of imperial forces and local government. Another prophet to be dealt with. Another rabble-rouser to be put in his place.
We think of the day of Jesus’ death as the main event in Jerusalem. But his was one of hundreds and thousands of similar deaths. It was a landscape of hills and crucifixes, as far as the eye could see. No fair trials, no representation, no plea bargains, no mercy.
And yet… it his story that is pulled from the edges of existence. His tomb that is found empty on the third day. His followers who begin to gather in one another’s houses to break bread and bless a cup and tell his story. His life, his ministry, his death, and ultimately his resurrection, that continue to pull us from the edges of our existence.
We aren’t there yet. We’ve a week to ponder the heartache and violence that sits at the center of the Christian narrative. Though who really needs Holy Week as a reason to sit in a heap of ash and suffer? We’ve heaps of heaps of ashes all around us. Suffering for days, with plenty leftover.
But this week, it’s not our suffering, not our heap of ashes. Not our mistakes, nor our victimhood. Not our pain and not the sharp edge we balance on between life and death.
This week we attempt to tolerate the intolerable by acknowledging that God does, in fact, know the depths of pain we experience. God is not the cause of suffering, nor its source. But in sitting deep within the story of Holy Week, maybe we can understand in some new way how God is present in our suffering and suffers with us.
For one reason and one reason only: love. A love so deep that it will live on the very edge of existence and even disappear into the abyss, only to emerge three days later to say,
“There is nowhere that you can go that I cannot find you.”