I've been really surprised by something this week.
One of my freelance projects right now is a big one: proofread the entire biblical text of the New King James Version of the Bible for a publisher who is putting out a new study Bible this year. I started at Genesis and worked my way through to Esther (about 750 pages) and then, over the weekend, decided to switch to the New Testament and read through the Gospels -- mainly because my most current offering of the Look at Jesus course was getting started this week.
What I didn't anticipate was how the reading of Matthew -- and specifically the last 10 chapters of it -- would affect me as we entered Holy Week.
I turned to the pages of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem -- otherwise known as Palm Sunday -- on the actual day in this church year that we were celebrating Palm Sunday. It felt so surreal for the recorded history of Christ's life to align so unexpectedly and gently with my own lived life here today.
And then, as I proceeded to read the account of that last week -- the way Jesus cleared the temple, then confronted the religious leaders who accosted him left and right; the way he sat and taught the disciples what to expect about the end of time and how to live without him there; the way Judas betrayed him in the garden and the disciples fled and then he began the long, lonely road to his death -- as I read all this on Sunday, a deep and gutteral moan began in my stomach, then moved into my chest and out my mouth.
I cried and cried and cried, tears streaming down my face and into my nose and mouth, getting everywhere.
They crucified my Lord. They abandoned him.
He died. He was killed. He was completely alone.
There were so many poignant moments for me as I sat and read those pages on Sunday that I decided to write them down and reflect upon them every single day this week. (I've been writing them as a series of daily posts on Still Forming this week.)
It's been such a different experience for me to sit with Holy Week in this way. I've not ever done that before. Mostly, I've observed Good Friday and Holy Saturday in intentional, meaningful ways leading up to Easter, but sitting with the full passion week of Jesus is new.
It has made this week a rather quiet, somber, reflective place inside my heart.
And I've realized what a good thing this is. Too often, those of us living on this side of the New Testament are quick to get to Easter. We love Easter! It's the foundation of our faith. It's the good news of Jesus made alive again and reigning forever and relieving the burden of all the earth from brokenness, sin, and death. It's the hope of our unending future with God. It's the life we get to live anew right now, here.
But the week leading up to Easter? It was not an easy one for our Christ. I cannot imagine fully the increasing fear and burden and pain and loneliness and resistance he felt as he approached that fateful hour of his arrest leading to his imprisonment, conviction, and death. It was a week he'd been living toward his whole life. It was the final hour. The moment of truth.
And he didn't want to go. He did, but he didn't. He was grieved at the fact of it. But he did, in the end, remain steadfast and undeterred.
He kept being Jesus.
Jesus asks of his closest disciples in the garden, "Could you not watch and wait with me one hour?"
I think our attention to Holy Week -- the difficulty of it, the discomfort of it, the lack of resolution it carries when we already know the end of the story -- is a bit like our choosing to watch and wait with Jesus in the way he wished and wanted his disciples to have done.
Will we watch and wait with him this week? Join me at Still Forming as we seek to be faithful to him in this small way.