A Week of Suffering, Day 1

Palm FrondsI wonder what really was going through Jesus’ head as he looked over Jerusalem, waiting for his friends to come back with the donkey he requested. Certainly he knew the popularity tide had turned long ago among the religious and political leaders. In fact, shortly after his birth when King Herod heard, from foreigners no less, that they were looking to pay homage to the one born king of the Jews, Herod was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:2). Yep. He had been a festering thorn in their sides since his birth.

As he saw the crowd growing in anticipation of his arrival, what was he anticipating?There’s the ongoing debate between Jesus being fully God, and therefore omniscient, and fully man, suspending his God-ness and not really knowing The Plan for him. Did he know what this week had in store for him?

I imagine it being more like having cancer or AIDS and being aware that your death is more imminent than before finding out you have cancer or AIDS. You’ve been given a potentially life-threatening diagnosis, but don’t really know when that final event will occur. It’s now blatantly in your consciousness that it’s sooner than you thought! You’re reminded that you have limited time this side of eternity (we all do, but certain things, like diagnoses, remind us), and you endeavor to be fully engaged, savoring what remaining time you have on this planet, while making what’s left of your life count for something.

You also begin to anticipate the suffering. Most people I’ve talked to about their diagnosis are most worried about suffering, for themselves and those they love. We wonder if we truly can endure horrible pain and the ravages of the disease process. We don’t really know how we will cope with the incredible suffering we anticipate. We also have no idea how others will respond when they’re confronted with someone else’s suffering. We’d like to think we’d be there for those we love in their hours of greatest need, but most of us have enough difficulty handling our own powerlessness in circumstances. Most of us are untested or lacking when it comes to bearing witness to another’s suffering.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (aka Palm Sunday in Christian tradition) is often emphasized as triumphant. The crowds are singing praises and cheering as he makes his way, riding the donkey, along the palm-lined trail. While the crowd is anticipating Jesus as the conquering hero, Jesus is anticipating something else.

Unbeknownst to everyone, it’s going to be an intense week. It’s a week of immense challenge, suffering and uncertainty. I find that incredibly comforting.

My goal is to take each day of Holy Week and look at it with a new lens. Jesus didn’t come to live his life on earth, make a mess of things, and move back to heaven, although that did happen. Jesus disrupts. Jesus suffers. Jesus triumphs.

Let’s find out what that means for us. I’ll “see” you on Day 2.


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