I woke up this morning thinking about three friends. One recently lost his job, one may be on the verge of losing his job, and third one doesn’t like her job. All three have questions about what God is doing, what he is saying, and why things aren’t going so well right now. I have heard from all three of my friends this week and have tried to offer whatever wisdom I could although I confess my ability to discern the hand of God in the convoluted circumstances of life isn’t very good. I rarely understand the course of my own life, much less anyone else’s. So what shall I say to my dear friends?
Mostly I will remind them–and myself–that this is the beginning of Holy Week, the high point of the Christian year. Today millions of Christians around the world remember that on this day–Palm Sunday–the crowds cheered as Jesus entered Jerusalem for the final time. “Hosanna!” they cried. “Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.” It is a subject of endless debate about how much the people really understood about Jesus.
The rulers saw him as a threat.
The common people loved him.
The disciples believed in him.
And on that happy day the multitudes welcomed him as the true King of Israel, entering the city riding on a donkey.
It was only a short-lived triumph. Soon the shouts turned into jeers as the people, ever fickle, followed their leaders in crucifying the Son of God. Holy Week leads ever deeper into sadness and darkness, day by day by day, until we come to Good Friday, which is sometimes called Long Friday because of all that Jesus suffered. And when they buried him, it seemed as if the bad guys had won and Jesus had lost. On Saturday the disciples hid behind locked doors. Then the great miracle happened and Jesus rose from the dead.
On Palm Sunday during my pastorate in Oak Park, I pointed out a certain architecture feature that carried enormous significance. The east side of the sanctuary featured a Palm Sunday stained glass window and the west side had a corresponding Easter window. Behind the pulpit there was a large wooden cross. The designers of the sanctuary were telling us something—that the whole Christian life is to be lived in Holy Week. We constantly move from Palm Sunday to Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Sometimes we are in one place, sometimes in another. And to understand the Christian life, we need to stand back and see the whole.
It is against that backdrop that I think about my friends this morning. Holy Week reminds us that God has not forgotten us. Sometimes all we can do is hold on to what we know to be true. During these days we are invited to lift our eyes, to literally lift them up and say, “Lord, what I see with these eyes, I don’t like so I ask you to give me new vision to see you at work all around me.” Remember that in Psalm 42 David actually talks to his soul. He tells his soul to “hope in God” (v. 11). That’s not just a throwaway line. It’s a reminder that we can’t trust our feelings or our thoughts or our evaluation of where we are in life. Only God sees the big picture.
Let us therefore rejoice in this happy Holy Week that begins today. Do not let your circumstances rob you of the good things God has in store in these blessed days.
Holy Week is a wonderful week . . . it always ends in a resurrection.