+ I have to admit—and I don’t like admitting this: I dread Holy Week.
Now, I know probably your first reaction to my saying that is that you think I am dreading all the extra work I’m going to have to be doing this coming week. Actually, no. I don’t dread that work at all. I’m a church nerd. I like doing church services and doing the work I was hired to do.
I dread this coming week for one big reason: I dread the emotional aspects of this coming week. I think the biggest toll of this week on me is the emotional toll.
How can it not, after all? We, as followers of Jesus, as people who love Jesus and balance our lives on his life and teachings and guidance, are emotionally tied to this man. This Jesus is not just mythical character to us. He is a friend, a mentor, a very vital and essential part of our lives as Christians. He is our God.
So, to have to go through the emotional rollercoaster of this coming week is hard on us. And today, we get the whole rollercoaster in our liturgy and in our two Gospel readings. Here we find a microcosm of the roller coaster ride of what is to come this week. What begins this morning as joyful ends with jeers. The Jesus who enters Jerusalem is the Jesus who has done some incredible things in the past few weeks, at least in the very long Gospel readings we’ve been hearing.
Three weeks ago, he turned the Samaritan woman’s life around. Two weeks ago, he gave sight to a man born blind. Last week, he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead.
This day’s events begin with us, his followers, singing our praises to Jesus, waving palm branches in victory. He is, at the beginning of this week, popular and accepted. For this moment, everyone seems to love him. But then…within moments, a darkness falls. Something terrible and horrible goes wrong.
What begin with rays of sunshine, ends in gathering dark storm clouds. Those joyful, exuberant shouts turn into cries of anger and accusation. Those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem have fled. They have simply disappeared from sight. And in their place an angry crowd shouts and demands the death of Jesus.
Even his followers, those who almost arrogantly proclaimed themselves followers of Jesus, have disappeared. Their arrogance has turned to embarrassment and shame. Even the Samaritan woman, whose life he turned around, the man born blind, and his friend Lazarus have disappeared and are nowhere in sight. Jesus, whom we encounter at the beginning of this liturgy this morning surrounded by crowds of cheering, joyful people, is by the end of it, alone, abandoned, deserted—shunned. Everyone he considered a friend—everyone he would have trusted—has left him.
And in his aloneness, he knows how they feel about him. He knows that he is an embarrassment to them. He knows that, in their eyes, he is a failure.
Throughout this coming Holy Week, the emotional roller coaster ride will get more intense. On Maundy Thursday the celebratory meal of Passover will turn into a dark and lonely night of betrayal. Jesus will descend to his lowest point after he washes the feet of his disciples. On Good Friday will be a day of more betrayal, of torture and of an agonizing violent death in the burning hot sun. Saturday will be a day of keeping watch at the grave that would, under normal circumstances, be quickly forgotten. Through our liturgies, we are able to walk with Jesus on this painful journey and to experience the emotional ups and downs of all that will happen.
And next Sunday, the roller coaster will again be at its most intense, its greatest moment. Next Sunday at this time, we will be rejoicing. Next Sunday, we will be rejoicing with all the choirs of angels and archangels who sing their unending hymns of praise to him. We will be rejoicing in the fact that all the humiliation experienced this week has turned to joy, all desertion has turned to rewarding and wonderful friendship, all sadness to gladness, and death—horrible, ugly death—will be turned to full, complete and unending life.
So, as we journey through the dark half of our liturgy today, as we trek alongside Jesus during this Holy Week of betrayal, torture and death, let us keep our eyes focused on the Light that is about to dawn in the darkness of our lives. Let us move forward toward that Light. Even though there might be sadness on our faces now, let the joy in our hearts prompt us forward along the path we dread to take. And, next week at this time, when we gather here again, we will be basking in the Christ’s incredible Light—a Light that triumphs over the darkness of not only his death, but ours as well.