As we begin this Holy Week and try to share the experience of the disciples in the first century, we face a roller coaster of emotions and striking contrasts:
We begin today with Palm Sunday as Jesus orchestrates and accepts the mantle of King in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But Jesus – a master in using symbols – makes his triumph on the colt of a donkey (rather than in a gold-plated chariot) accompanied – not by his legions of soldiers and his captured wealth – but by crowds of common people and children. They understand the allusion to Zechariah 9:9 – this King Jesus is different: “He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, …” An amazing high point for all.
Then we come to the Passover Feast of Unleavened Bread on Thursday evening – a wonderful celebration that abruptly goes into a downward spiral. When Jesus starts talking about His death (usually a downer at a dinner party!), He reveals that His betrayer is right there in the room with them. The disciples start trying to figure out who it is … then they start arguing about who is considered the greatest of them. Jesus – who always sees things from an eternal perspective – assures them that in His Kingdom, the greatest person is the one who is most like a child, and the leader is the one who is most a servant. So this feast to celebrate God’s delivering His people from slavery has become a dispute about the pecking order of the group: Who is the worst and who is the best? An emotional roller-coaster …
And then the lowest moment of the week comes about noon the next day as Jesus is brutally crucified. How can their lives have plunged so low in these few days since Jesus the King rode in triumph into Jerusalem?
But, of course, God sees it differently. That demeaning, humiliating, and vicious crucifixion is the “glorification of Jesus” in God’s eyes. And then comes Easter and Jesus is resurrected, having defeated death – for all of us.
So we ride the roller coaster of Holy Week and try to understand how to live our lives with the reality of a “just, saving, and humble” King on the colt of a donkey who wants us to become like children and serve others as we prepare to live eternally with God, because Jesus – through his death and resurrection – freed us from our sins and spiritual death.
And it’s not just during Holy Week that we experience this kind of roller-coaster! Our lives can change from the high of spiritual and material blessings to a low of spiritual doubt and confusion and of material needs in a moment – and then back to a high again – and on and on.
But Jesus has given us a simple ritual to anchor us in God’s reality no matter where we are on our roller coaster. We take His body – the bread – and His blood – the fruit of the vine – and remember the cruel cross and the empty tomb of his resurrection. And we accept our salvation!
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your grace and love that allowed your Son to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. And we praise and thank you for His Resurrection that gives us life. Help us to live for your glory as Jesus did on the cross. Give us life. Amen.
Communion meditation shared by Mary Delle Stelzer at the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York City on March 20, 2016.