26 March 2016
Holy Week 2016: Arise out of waiting
Feelings of anticipation are completely dependent on what it is you're waiting for. We can be waiting for good or bad news – in both cases feelings of anticipation will range from excitement to dread. Throughout the Easter story there is a continuing sense of anticipation as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem to fulfill his mission.
At the triumphal entry the crowds are anticipating Jesus' over-throw of their Roman oppressors. They are waiting for Jesus to cause them to rise out of their captivity. Their anticipation breaks out into praise of Jesus, their long-awaited Messiah.
Yet they are praising him for what they think he should do, not what he is going to do.
But then there is Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane waiting for his captors. His feelings driven by the anticipation of the pain, suffering and abandonment he is about to experience. In contrast to the crowd, Jesus' anticipation breaks out into prayerful cries for help – he utters those famous words:
'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' (Matthew 26:42)
I think there is a profound challenge in the contrast of these two experiences of anticipation.
The crowd wanted instant relief: they were anticipating the quick fix or surface level escape. Jesus has a deeper and more long lasting change in mind. Jesus was willing to go through immense short term pain and suffering for nothing less than the defeat of evil, triumph over death and ultimately the re-creation of all things.
In the difficult circumstances we might find ourselves in how often are we like the crowd anticipating what we think Jesus should do rather than humbly trusting him in the midst of difficulty and challenge?
Jesus' struggle in the garden of Gethsemane paints a challenging picture of loving obedience. Through his resurrection and ascension, Jesus has been seated in the place of all power and authority. On Easter Sunday we will celebrate his triumph over death into new life. Yet Jesus' path to exaltation was through his descent to death. His glorious reign comes about through costly suffering. The Christian life is about the way of the cross alongside the way of glory.
As we consider all the different elements of Holy Week this Easter, let's think about whether we are following Jesus' example and saying not my will but yours be done. Or are there areas where we are more like the crowd, praising Jesus for what we think he should do?
Jesus does deserve the praise of the crowd. He answers their deepest needs but just not in the way they anticipated. Often I can be tempted to be like the crowd and try to second guess what Jesus is doing or dictate to him my own terms and conditions. But the Easter story reminds us that even when all around us seems impossible – a new dawn is always coming. As John writes 'the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it' (John 1:5).
Jesus was able to trust his Father's will because he knew his Father's steadfast love for him. I hope that as you reflect on the events of Holy Week God's Spirit reveals afresh to you the depths of God's love for us in Christ.
May that knowledge enable you, like Jesus, to say not my will but yours be done.