by Sean Warren, Pastor of Redemption Communities + Guest Services
- Not Since the Black Plague have Jerusalem’s holy alleys fallen so still.
- Washington Post
- On an Empty Via Dolorosa Before Easter, Praying for the World’s Sick
- The New York Times
- Holy Land: Jerusalem deserted as virus advances
- Independent Catholic News
- Opening Holy Week under quarantine, Pope tells suffering, “You are not alone”
These headlines read as if they were lifted from the opening pages of a Hollywood blockbuster script.
A pandemic sweeps across the world turning everything upside down: people filled with anxiety, no one knowing what tomorrow may bring, religious institutions grinding to a halt, hospitals being overrun, and the anticipation of death filling the mind like virus particles filling the air.
But this isn’t a script, it’s not the creation of a clever writer. It is our reality. And in this new reality, our desperate world is waiting for… a flattening of a curve, a vaccine to the virus, or an “all clear” from the government. We all are waiting. And waiting isn’t something we as humans have ever really been good at doing.
So in our waiting, what should we do? I think we can find some relevant things to consider from John chapters 12 – 19 as we think on this, our Wholly Different Holy week.
People then, as well as now, know they need something more than what they have.
In John 12:12 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey, many people hung their hopes on a new leader who would upend the politics of the day. He, Jesus, was the Messiah, the Promised One. The crowds cheered,
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
The hopes of a King who could bring about the society they wanted were in their grasp, or so they thought. While many of them might have had selfish motivations for this “New King and Kingdom” the truth still remained…what they had previously didn’t fulfill their deepest longings….something else was needed, and Jesus was the answer.
In this moment we are experiencing now, many people are feeling the need for something “more.” They feel the need for answers to questions they have not asked themselves in a long time, if ever. For the believer, it is our sacred opportunity to discuss these things with those whom we share in this life. There is a need only Jesus can fill, and we bear witness of this. This moment, in our Holy Week, is a unique opportunity to share the ultimate answer…people need something more, and you know what that “more” is.
Jesus stayed focused on the difficult task ahead, and so should we.
In John 12:27-28, we see Jesus troubled in his soul. He says
“And what Shall I say? “Father save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Jesus knew the pain that was coming. He felt the tension in his body. He knew agony was just up the road. Nevertheless, he also knew it was for this reason that God had allowed him to be on earth, and the reason was for the Father to glorify himself in this moment. Similarly, we know that nothing touches us that does not first pass through our Heavenly Father’s hands. While the days in which we are living are difficult and scary, we can trust our Good, Good Father to be consistent with His character, and love us perfectly through them. This fact gives us firm footing as we step into the difficult unknown.
Our greatest acts of service are those that are often overlooked, unexpected, and quiet…and they are fueled by the New Commandment.
In John 13, Just before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus would perform an act of service that would stupefy his disciples. He would, in the quiet confines of the upper room, wash their feet as if he was a common servant. Jesus modeled for us the love and humility needed in a follower of his. What I want us to notice:
Jesus did this in the most stressful part of his life and ministry. No doubt his mind was filled with thoughts of the cross and his own death. Regardless, Jesus displayed his love in the midst of his greatest troubled times. For us, our Heavenly Father will intersect opportunities for us to serve others during this unprecedented time. It is in the collection of these small, quiet, and comforting deeds that we will display the truths we believe and these acts will go before us as a Gospel witness to others. Jesus sums it up this way to his disciples in verse 34 & 35… “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”
Suffering is part of the journey, but it isn’t our destination, and only the truth can lead us home.
The headlines at the beginning of this article are surreal and would surely leave a person with a sense of despair if we allowed them to. But in this moment, we have to remind ourselves of what we know to be truth. In a similar way, Jesus was telling and retelling his disciples, and anyone who would listen for that matter, who he was in the last days of his life on earth. He told us that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He told us that he was sending the Holy Spirit. He said he was leaving us with Peace! He told us he was the True Vine, and that the world would hate us, but do not worry, your sorrow will turn into joy because he has overcome the world. Then, our Jesus prays for us in the High Priestly Prayer of John 17.
We know this world is broken, that sin abounds, and suffering will come to all of us. But greater still is the truth that Jesus died for our sins, and this suffering is only temporary. He has gone to prepare a place for us.