We’re now well into the season of Lent and looking forward to Easter – a journey that takes us from the jubilation of Palm Sunday, through the cleansing of the temple and the plotting of the religious leaders and on to the pain of Calvary, culminating in the supreme hope that Easter Sunday brings when the empty tomb is discovered.
Holy week is full of ups and downs. There’s joy, anger, friendship, teaching, misunderstanding, deviousness, betrayal, denial and pain. At the centre of all this humanity there stands a man, a man so sure of his purpose that he is willing to walk a path that most people would shy away from, a man who is willing to pay the ultimate price for what he believes in. It’s a wonder to me that he thought we were worth all that he went through – such is his love. This man is courageous and filled with integrity, he also has the astounding ability to remain centered on God through it all. He walks the walk as well as talks the talk.
Okay – we say he was God incarnate, he knew what he was doing but, my friends, he was also a man, a man who experienced pain and struggle, a man who had to work out his calling. We see this on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39-46): as the disciples slept Jesus prayed, “Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done.” At that moment he was in anguish and prayed even more fervently until his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. This was the humanity of Jesus. We see here that he was afraid but was willing to complete his task.
It’s this Jesus that speaks to me when things are difficult. I can see in him certainty and yet also struggle, his way was not an easy and he doesn’t say that ours will be either. Our journey is different – what Jesus did in that place so long ago was once for all, we don’t have to repeat it, but we do have our own struggles. These are different for everyone: for some it will be loneliness, for others stress caused by too much pressure, for some it will be practical problems with money or health, for others the difficulties may be other people or even something within themselves. We can feel anxious about so many things and the feeling of being bogged down can overcome us and paralyse us to the extent that we feel we can’t move forward or come to that in any direction.
So, how does what happened so long ago help us? I suppose for me it’s about transformation. There have been times when all I could do was live through a situation, times when I’ve cried into the washing up water, “Oh! God please help”. It’s at those times l need to move to the next part of the Easter Story, away from the cross and the pain into the resurrection. The place of transformation. Jesus took all that could be thrown at him and all his own struggles to that Cross but it didn’t end there, there was more, much more.
There have been times when struggle for me has included saying goodbye to someone I love, knowing that they are no longer in pain and releasing them into the next phase of existence. At other times I’ve looked back on difficult times and from a distance seen how it panned out, that it has been slowly transformed into something else, resurrected from disaster. Sometimes it’s a case of taking one small step of faith at a time and not panicking.
Hope is one of the key themes for Easter and we access that hope through our relationship with God, through getting to know Jesus of Nazareth, through prayer, through reading our scripture, through being together and hearing God when he speaks through others and into our hearts. and through gathering together on Sunday mornings to worship God and remember what he did for us.
As we travel through Easter week together my prayer is that we may find our hope re-energised so that we can leave the church on Easter Sunday feeling uplifted and ready to meet whatever the world has to throw at us. That we may know the peace that passes all understanding lurking somewhere deep within us.
May God bless you richly this Easter time.