Week Six: Who is This? Before you read this chapter, I would recommend you do the following:
Take three deep breaths to center yourself for the journey ahead. Take some time to pray by saying something like, “God, help me understand what you have prepared for me today.”
Read the Scripture slowly. Read it with questions like, Why did the people get so excited? Who is Jesus in all of this?
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
How was your week? I hope you had a nice one. Finally, it seems that the recent season of thunderstorms, floods, and winds has passed and beautiful spring has begun. I hope you were able to find some time to enjoy the beautiful white clouds in the sky, fresh green leaves on the trees, and colorful flowers on the streets. It reminds me of Johnny Nash’s infamous song, “I Can See Clearly Now,” which goes:
I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun shiny day
I wish for you to have only bright, bright, sunshiny days from now on.
However, unfortunately, you and I both know that's not going to be the case. This week, we heard another heartbreaking news about the Nashville school shooting. Three children and three adults lost their lives. As a father, whenever I hear about school shootings, it always hits me hard. I can't even imagine what it would be like to lose a 9-year-old because a bullet pierced through their tiny body. It should anger all of us, and the whole world should respond to such a tragedy. Yet, we are so numbed by shocking news like this because it just keeps happening in this country. How many innocent lives must be lost in this way until we make significant changes regarding gun control? How long?
Today, we are celebrating Palm Sunday. It’s a joyous day when we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, and the crowd shouted “Hosanna in the highest!” This is the day when Jesus was publicly welcomed as the Messiah. It looked like they finally understood who he was after all these years of his ministry. People put down their clothes and palm leaves to welcome the new king into Jerusalem. So, in our Christian tradition, this is the day when we are supposed to join all Christians in the world to shout “hosanna” and rejoice that the Son of God is coming into our lives.
The irony, however, is that this is also the day of Passion of Christ Sunday. In our Christian tradition, this is also the day when we begin Holy Week. We are invited to deeply meditate on how Jesus was captured, tortured, and crucified by the same people who welcomed him into Jerusalem. It’s fascinating how the crowd that was shouting “hosanna” quickly turned into the crowd that said, “crucify him” when they saw Jesus in front of Pontius Pilate. So, this is also the day when we are invited to think about how limited, sinful, and faulty we are as human beings.
Then, what are we supposed to do today? Are we supposed to be happy or sad? Should we celebrate our victory over sins or mourn over our transgressions? Can we sing praises and cheer for the king who comes into our lives or must we shrink before our own sinful nature? How are we going to have our daily journey during this Holy Week? Are we going to rejoice every day as the resurrection and Jesus’ final victory over Death is coming soon? Or are we supposed to spend each day meditatively grieving over the lives lost because of our sins?
I believe that there is no “right way” to observe the Holy Week. Everyone’s spiritual journey is different, and each one gets to decide how to live through this week. However, I would gently invite you to think about how Jesus would have spent his last week before his death and resurrection. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, many people were praising him, but some questioned him, saying, “Who is this?” Well, I would say that those who questioned him were better than those who shouted “hosanna” without knowing who he was. I would encourage you to do the same and ask the question, “Who is this?”
Carefully looking into Jesus’ last week helps us see the truth about life: there is no absolute joy or absolute sadness in life; they come together. On the day when Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem and saw the crowd cheering for him, if he knew they wanted to make him the King of Jews, which was not his way of salvation, do you think he was happy or sad? What about the day when Mary broke a costly perfume made of pure nard and anointed Jesus’ feet (John 12:1-11)? That was also the time when his disciple, Judas Iscariot, criticized her and decided to betray him. When Jesus had the last supper and washed the feet of the disciples, do you think he was happy to have the last meal with his friends or sad to see Judas leaving him?
I believe that this Palm/Passion of Christ Sunday symbolizes the irony of life that we face all the time. I know a pastor who once was invited to lead a funeral in the morning and had to go to a first birthday party of a baby in the afternoon on the same day. He had to go to both. In the morning, he wept with those who were weeping because death claimed the life of their beloved one. In the afternoon, he rejoiced with those who rejoiced because a new life was born and lived through a tough first year. Life sometimes throws at us both something to rejoice and something to grieve about. We just have to be present to that reality.
Springtime reminds us of this truth, as Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).” Indeed, life and death are not so far away from each other. I hope you and I will fully enjoy this beautiful Spring- time this week. At the same time, I hope that we have the heart to weep with those who weep. I hope we don’t turn our faces away from those who are grieving but have the courage to ask, “Who is this who died?” Let us rejoice and let us grieve. Let us die like a grain of wheat so that we may bear much fruit. May God bless our onward journey.
Who is Jesus to you?
When do you think about the irony of life that often something joyful and something dreadful come together? How do you deal with that reality?
How are you planning to live through this Holy Week? What do you expect to celebrate on Easter day?