How quickly time passes between Ash Wednesday (Ashes to Ashes: The Journey begins again) and Easter Sunday. Consumed by work, school, soccer and vacations, the days pass by and I yet again feel I did not set aside enough time to reflect during Lent. Prepared or not, we have now entered Holy Week. One last chance before Easter to consider how Jesus’ journey towards the cross should define my faith; define my very being.
We begin with Palm Sunday, and again hear the story of Jesus riding on a donkey, palms waving and crowds cheering. Was Jesus’ heart heavy as he heard the joyful shouts yet sensed what would transpire in the coming days?
We hear about the last supper, when Jesus shared a meal and a message with his friends:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28
The word “you” in original language is plural. In the Sacrament of Communion, I hear the word ‘you’ as singular. This week, we remember that Jesus declared forgiveness through body and blood to ALL.
On Friday, we hear of the death of Jesus; punished, shamed, nailed to a cross and unceremoniously placed in a tomb. Yet we are filled with hope knowing we will rejoice on Easter morning, proclaiming “He is Risen – He is Risen indeed! Hallelujah!” We gather in churches and listen to the Holy Week story every year. Still, I tend to gloss over certain verses:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
I don’t understand it, so I ignore it. Can I ignore the same words year after year? Thankfully, the formation of our faith is life-long. Over the last few months, I’ve heard this verse addressed from two angles, giving me the opportunity to listen in a new way. First, this cry of Jesus was actually taken from the Old Testament:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1-2
Psalm 22 is a lament, a plea to the Lord to be near. It is a cry of desperation, yet it acknowledges the ways God has rescued his people, and praises God for his righteousness and rulership. Jesus was Jewish. He would have grown up listening to and singing the words of the Psalms. Was this cry from the cross simply a young man tapping into his Jewish roots and finding comfort in a song from his childhood?
I also read that this verse reminds us that Jesus is God yet truly human. The author declared that Jesus did not have a “pipeline to heaven” or a “blueprint of God’s will.” In this, Jesus emanates the humanness we all experience. Though He ultimately allowed human desires to become silenced, did Jesus experience the same resistance to God’s will that we experience now?
Thought-provoking ideas – new ways to hear old words!
We will continue to hear the Easter story every single year; the words will be exactly the same. But Scripture is living! The words on the page await the application of God’s presence. As we study the Bible, gather in community and spend time in prayer, we must listen. Through this we find a living relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. If we pay attention, the living God will spring from this very old book and speak to us here and now.
I know the journey of Jesus to the cross, but every year I have the opportunity to listen again and let the words speak in new ways. What message might God try to send me this year?!