This past Sunday was Palm Sunday which began Holy Week. For anyone unfamiliar with Palm Sunday, it is the day when Christians celebrate the time Jesus entered into Jerusalem and people shouted,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Now, what’s going on here? A little context I think has helped me.
If your living during this time, you are shaped by the Hebrew Scriptures and the narratives found there. Primarily though, you are shaped by two major narratives; that of exodus and that of exile.
Exodus is familiar to most people, even those not raised in a religious tradition. According to the narrative, God, through Moses (i.e. Christian Bale:) brought about salvation (read liberation) and set the Israelites free from Egyptian oppression.
Exile, is less familiar to most people, but it is no less important and may actually be much more important to the Jewish mind. In 587 BCE, the Babylonian Empire, under the reign of Kind Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Judah, destroyed the temple, and took thousands of the most influential leaders and most of the young people and brought them back to Babylon to assimilate them into their culture. This exile lasted for about 50 years until the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonian’s in 539 BCE and allowed those in exile to go free. It was actually during this time that much of the Hebrew Scriptures were written. This was because the Jewish people were forced to wrestle with who they were and were God was in the midst of this. They had been conquered, their sacrificial religious system destroyed with the temple, and how they understood God was through God’s presence in the temple. Now they had to think about where they came from, who was God, how did God bring about salvation before, and how the heck did they wind of in Babylon?
In both of these narratives, God brought about salvation through a person who set the Jewish people free from oppression.
So, in the Palm Sunday narrative we see the first century Jews expecting God to bring about salvation in the same way that God had in the past, by sending a Messiah/Savior who would bring about salvation by overthrowing the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom…only this didn’t happen.
Several days later, what Christians now call Maundy Thursday, one of Jesus’ closest friends betrayed Jesus and on Good Friday Jesus was crucified. Imagine you were one of the disciples, you have left all family and friends to follow this Jewish Rabbi for the last year, and you wholeheartedly believed that this Rabbi was the coming Messiah/Savior who would bring about salvation. In other words, Jesus was the warrior king who would overthrow the Romans!…only something went terribly wrong.
Within a matter of several days, your whole world was shaken, and you were left confused, frustrated, uncertain, and dumbfounded. You have given up everything. You deeply believed that Jesus was the Savior and now he was just killed. Your whole life was headed in one direction, and then all of a sudden the ground was ripped out from under you and you didn’t know where God was or why this was happening.
Have you ever felt like this?
Have you ever asked, “Why is this happening?”
Have you ever asked, “Where are you in the midst of this God?”
You’re not alone!
Holy Week reflects the human drama. In other words, each of us can share in this week, because I have never met anyone who didn’t go through a Friday of their own. Everyone one of us has felt lost, betrayed, hurt, wounded, alone, frustrated, uncertain, confused at some point in our life. If you are human and your heart is still beating, you have endured a hardship, a time of grief or suffering of some sort. You have experienced a crisis or loss, you have loss a job, a relationship, someone has passed away, someone close to you has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, you have moved, someone has spoken something to you or about you that has wounded or hurt you, you have tried to obtain something – a job, a school, a grade, or even pregnancy, and it didn’t happen…we all share in this story because Holy Week reflects each of our stories.
Two simple things I have learned from going through seasons like this in my life and seeing others go through them as well. They are very practical, but I think very powerful.
1. Admit it
To admit that your struggling is not easy, but it is the first step to healing. Many of us, myself included, struggle with this because it feels like admitting that we are weak. Also, among many Christians, there can be a sort of pressure to always seem like we have it all together and to always be “more than conquerors.” The problem is, we don’t live our entire lives in Easter…we spend our lives journeying from Palm Sunday – where everything seems to be going great, through Good Friday – where everything comes crashing down, to Easter – where God works to bring about new life among the ashes.
By admitting it, we are not admitting we are less human, less mature, or less spiritual. We all have and will endure seasons of hardship, just because you are struggling doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or aren’t good enough or strong enough. When we admit it and openly walk through difficult times, our souls expand. Have you ever met someone who seems like they were a deeply centered person? Chances are they walked through a very difficult Friday and resisted the temptation to try to skirt around it or try to pretend it’s not there. I think the key here is realizing it is a season of your life and it doesn’t define who you are.
2. Surround yourself in community.
Friends matter. Relationships matter. As much as we try to do things on our own, when we experience Fridays (i.e. times of crisis) in our lives, we often need to rely on others. This has been true in a number of different seasons of my life. As much as I would like to always have faith, hope, perseverance, and strength, I don’t. I doubt. I don’t always have hope. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and want to give up. We need those around us to have faith for us when our faith falters, to have hope when we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, to continue to walk alongside us and be our strength when we feel like giving up and surrendering.
Holy Week is a reflection of each one of our stories. By reflecting upon this we can be encouraged to know that we are not alone!
Oh…and the most powerful part about this is that God is working amidst our Fridays (loss) to bring about Easter (new life)!