April 5, 2020
This is the beginning of Holy Week and today, we are getting ready for the story of the Passion. It is the greatest story ever told and so, in this week, we tell it slowly, we ruminate on it, we resist the temptation to go directly to the resurrection, where we are likely to move too quickly through the grief and we forget to experience the passion — the suffering, and then we fail to enter into the story with compassion — suffering with those who walked this way of Jesus. Today we get straight to the heart of it — the man who would be a new kind of king, will instead be crucified and once again, we are witnesses to this tragic ending and miraculous rising.
Before we read it, I want to frame it. The capacity for suffering and for suffering with — the expression of the deepest emotions defined and modeled for us by this one we call Jesus is foundational for Christian people. For many in our culture and for much of the world, the Christian faith is often seen as a weak pietistic stuffiness that presents itself as either morally rigid and limply relative. Christians are either Bible toting, passive-aggressive “do-gooders”or empty proclaimers of pious platitudes. The truth is that neither of these is at the heart of the Christian life — both are distortions and aberrations.
What much of our culture can’t imagine is that religious persons can be filled with great passion that is expressed in the form of the most beautiful, most courageous, most compassionate acts and the most sublime words imaginable.
This week, this Holy Week is the time we remember the heights to which humanity can ascend and the depths to which we can fall. And during this Holy Week, I ask that you read and listen, watch and study the life of this man Jesus. Telescoped into the span of one week, we will see what a human being can do. We will see the real potential of human life expressed in this one man, Jesus. In this single week we will see humanity at its best and worst.
But keep your eyes on Jesus, for here is what we know — we know for certain that he was a human being, flesh and blood, just as we are. In fact, his passion so completely expressed what it means to be human, we take on faith that he is the very Word of God, the expression of divinity in human form. He sets the bar for our own human lives and calls us to enter our own humanity with as much passion. He teaches us how to live and how to die, and in that living and dying, how to be human. And his willingness to go to the cross for us, sets us free from the nagging guilt that it’s not possible. His very passion for life is so great that through the miracle of grace, the unmerited favor of God, he rises from death so that we might see only life eternal. When we keep our eyes on the one who has shown us how to live, we too are given the promise of life eternal.
We are watching those who are on the front lines of this pandemic, living and dying with such passion — offering their lives for the sake of others. This generation may be remembered for the Coronavirus or it may be remembered for those who gave their lives for others — those who walked the way of Jesus out of love for others. Make this week holy as you remember the greatest story ever told and you pray for those suffering servants who are dying so that others might live.