When I begin to imagine what it would have been like to travel with Jesus as one of his original disciples, I can hardly fathom what it must have felt like just before that first holy week. Did any of them have an inkling of a clue for what was just around the corner? I suspect not…
Each time I read the gospel accounts of the events that precede the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, I’m struck by how rich and vivid are the stories. Beginning with Mary’s anointing of Jesus with pure nard, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem must have been a beautiful and majestic sight to behold. His cursing of the fig tree and cleansing of the temple are dripping with meaning and metaphor. His offering of a few more parables – two sons, wicked tenants, king’s son, ten virgins, and ten talents – are indications of his sharp mind and kingdom focus.
When Jesus repeats the great commandment, his reminder to love with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind are pointed directly to those who might be fearful in the coming days. Therefore, by the time the Passover meal is served and the foot washing begins, the traitor Judas leans more into his fear than his love for Jesus. The Lord’s parting words to his disciples embody endearing love and affection, and are in direct opposition to the fear that grips the heart of his brittle betrayer Judas and his befuddled denier Peter.
Fear and love so closely linked, and yet so far apart from one another. As the story progresses toward the crucifixion, fear is what guides the high priest, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod. Fear grips the hearts of Peter and Judas, the confused crowds, the mocking Jews, the flogging soldiers, and the angry bystanders. Fear is laced with frustration and confusion, irrational and unholy decisions, and unlimited, unmerited taunting.
As we review the accounts of Jesus’ final week of life and service, we too are drawn into the same basic choice: unholy fear or divine love? Will we be so wrapped up in the ways of the world that our ambitions and anxieties lead us instead to isolation and fear? Or, will we be so enveloped by the love of Jesus that our longings and desires lead us to worship and adoration?
The outstretched arms of love spread out for us on the cross are offered freely and generously so that we can know love that’s deeper than any ocean, higher than any sky, wider than any sunrise, and longer than any horizon known to this world. May the final legs of the journey toward the cross of Christ lead you to love like never before. Let the love of Jesus fill you up so that your deep reservoir is overflowing with gladness and joy. We love because he first loved…that’s the most compelling, life-transforming truth of all.