We are in the middle of Holy Week and the re-membering of Jesus’s final journey toward Jerusalem, into the upper room, through Gethsemane, up to Calvary, into the tomb and up from the dead. We place this story back into our membership every year because its movements hold the core of our faith and explain the core of our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. And so we pause to incorporate the story once again.
Know who God says you are. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey his followers shouted, “Hosanna in the highest!” And often we find ourselves uttering this same prayer, “Jesus, save us in the highest way possible.” But not everyone in the crowd was comfortable with the idea that Jesus was the one who could save them and some tried to silence the disciples. But Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet the stones will cry out (Luke 19:28-40).” And we’re reminded through Jesus’ words that stones were legal witness in his culture and that even if the crowds failed to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ, there will still be truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Jesus is the Savior of the world even if no one testifies. And we are reminded that the identities God gives to his children are true with or without the affirmation of the crowds
Let God wash away what you are not. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus joins his closest friends for a final meal in an upper room. Away from the busy streets and the hectic pace of life, Jesus takes a loaf of bread and raises a cup of wine and says, “This is my life broken and poured out for you (Matthew 26:17-30).” He then removes his outer garment and kneels before his followers and taking the dirtiest part of their lives into his hands, he tenderly washes them clean (Matthew 26:17-30, John 13:1-17). We are a people who are loved by a Savior who shows “the full extent of his love” by serving those who often feel undeserving. And we are reminded that even Jesus’ disciples have dirt. We are reminded that there isn’t one among us that doesn’t need washing and there isn’t one among us that Jesus won’t lovingly wash.
Surrender your will and let your body follow. After the meal Jesus goes to the olive grove called Gethsemane where Jesus faces a crushing decision (Mark 14:32-42). Will he let God use him, even if it means suffering and death? Will he truly lay down his life, not only for his friends, but also for his enemies and for those who have and will betray him? And we see so clearly that it is in the garden where our confident proclamations of faith must wrestle with the realities of our flesh. Will our bold words of laying down our lives become actual lives laid down? It is in the garden that we are reminded that the words “Thy will be done” are practical and not philosophical.
Know that there is no-one righteous, not even one. Betrayed by one of the disciples, whose feet he has just washed, Jesus is then tried, tortured and condemned to die. Bearing the weight of the cross all the way up to Calvary, the man who was hailed as king as he rode into Jerusalem is now crucified with two criminals (Luke 23:32-43). As he hangs there dying he turns first to those who live by the letter of the law and says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. With such grace Jesus re-members the religious who have failed to extend grace to him. And then Jesus’s heart turns to one of the criminals who hangs beside him dying. The criminal has nothing to offer to Jesus, nothing but a simple recognition that Jesus is the Christ, the One who the holds the power to save him in the highest way possible. With such grace Jesus now re-members the one who has broken the law saying, “today you will be with me in paradise.” And we are reminded that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, so that the law-keepers and the law-breakers would both find their righteousness in him (Romans 3:10).
Let God’s hands hold you. Before Jesus breathed his last, Jesus uttered these final words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:44-49) These are the words of the Psalms, the songs that have sustained God’s people through their most difficult times, and as Jesus is dying he sings them over himself. “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” And then the last stanza of the psalm, sung with the last breath of life, “Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God (Psalm 31:1-5).” These are the songs we sing as we come into Holy Saturday, the day between death and resurrection. As we too wait for the fulfillment of what God has promised to his people, as we lay in tombs or sit outside of them, we are reminded that God’s hands can hold the weight of our waiting spirits.
Re-member the resurrection. Early in the morning the women who had been closest to Jesus, come to the tomb expecting to tend to the difficult tasks of death. They find the gravestone rolled away find no body in the tomb. As they wonder about what had happened, messengers from God appear and they are reminded about the promise of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-12). For some people in the world, for some people among us, Holy Saturday has lasted a lot longer than one day and the waiting can cause us to wonder what has happened, it can cause us to wonder just exactly where Jesus might be. And my prayer for all of us this Easter Sunday is that we too would be reminded about the promise of the resurrection. And my commission for all of you is to become one of those messengers from God that reminds those who are waiting, that there will be a day when everything will be made new (Revelation 21:1-5).