Don’t skip from Palm Sunday to Easter

Farmville Enterprise April 17, 2019

It is tempting for us to skip from the loud and celebratory “hosannas” of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem directly to the unequaled joy of the empty grave. We prefer to gloss over the Last Supper revelation that one of the twelve would betray The Messiah and the inability of three best friends to stay awake in the garden while Jesus, overwhelmed by anguish, prayed if it would be possible for the cup to be taken from him.  It is too uncomfortable to ponder the traitorous kiss of a friend, the scourging, the mocking, the crown of thorns plus the excruciating and humiliating death by crucifixion, with the added shame of being between two criminals. It paints a more pretty picture to jump from Jesus on the donkey being greeted with a welcome parade of waving branches and cloaks spread on the ground right to the angel sitting on the rolled-away stone declaring “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” (Matthew 28:6)

The truth is that we cannot fully appreciate the resurrection without taking time to consider the sacrifice. The agony to which Jesus submitted fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and accomplished God’s purpose of redemption for us. The life of discipleship requires being part of Christ’s suffering and death. One of the many paradoxes spelled out by Jesus says that we must lose our lives in order to find them.

The Apostle Paul explains, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

Dutch Catholic priest, author and professor Henri Nouwen writes, “How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of this season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die – with you, through you and in you – and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess. O Lord, I am self-centered, concerned about myself, my career, my future, my name and fame. Often I even feel that I use you for my own advantage. How preposterous, how sacrilegious, how sad!”

Like Paul and Nouwen, may we evaluate which of our attitudes, tendencies and actions need to die and determine ways we can empty ourselves in order to serve others. Let’s commit a substantial amount of time before Easter Sunday to read about, contemplate, and give thanks for the details and the immensity of God’s sacrifice on Good Friday.

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