- Sonja Wetzel
It was Palm Sunday just a few days ago, and I recently read a Facebook post that got me thinking about where my focus is in this Holy Week. Sometimes we just want to skip from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. We’re all about the celebrations and happiness. We would rather pass over the Last Supper, the time in Gethsemane, Good Friday, and the utter loss and fear the disciples went through on Saturday. We would prefer to do that with our lives, too. We don’t want to be in the midst of difficult times, and we definitely do not want to celebrate them when we are trying to put them behind us. It’s even harder to find that silver lining when all we can see are dark, heavy clouds. And yet, James tells us in James 1:2-4 to consider facing trials with pure joy. We tend to say when we are waist deep in muck and pain, “Sure, sure, we’ll consider it pure joy when this is over. We’ll learn, but don’t ask me to even think about joy right now.” But when we look at Paul’s example in the New Testament, we see him rejoicing in prison. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were traveling and tried to go to multiple places, but God blocked their path each time. Then when they finally made it to Philippi, they ended up being “severely flogged” and thrown into prison. But around midnight that very night (in verse 25) we see them praying and singing hymns! They were choosing to look on this pain and suffering as an opportunity to witness to the people around them and focusing on God instead of bemoaning their situation.
Can we look at Maundy Thursday, truly listening to and remembering all that Jesus was teaching the disciples in the upper room that night, and hold onto that through Good Friday? We must remember the teaching of humility and the way He even washed the feet of the one who was selling Him out for thirty silver. Remember the love that He had for each of His disciples, even though He knew they would all fall asleep and then abandon Him when He really needed them. He invited them all to the table and ate and drank with them. All of them. If you think people should be excluded, then you’ve forgotten what Jesus taught. If you think people are unworthy of your love, you’ve forgotten the lessons.
Can we look honestly on the pain and suffering of Christ and remember He went through all of that for us? Not only the cross, but the ridiculous trial where He knew He was completely innocent of everything and still didn’t protest; the whipping that left Him raw and bleeding; the crown of thorns that added insult to grievous injury; the mocking of the guards when He knew He deserved their absolute worship. In your darkest times, I encourage you to remember that Jesus understands what you’re going through and is there with you in the middle of it. You are not alone. He was utterly alone and chose to go through it all anyway. For you.
Once we sort through all of the feelings of pain and abandonment, we can truly revel in the joy that Easter brings. We don’t have to feel the disciples’ fear and disbelief about what just happened. We know Friday was not the end. We know what happens next! The same is true for our dark times. They are not the end. Either in this world or in heaven, it will all be resolved and we have nothing to fear if we accept the gift that Jesus gave us through His death and resurrection. We can consider everything pure joy because we know everything here on earth is temporary and a tiny blip in the scope of eternity. And we are never alone because He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6) because we serve a risen Savior!