On the night before he was to die, in despair of what he knew was to come, Jesus pleaded with his disciples.
Mark 14:34-35 – He said to them, "My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here, and stay awake." And going on a little further he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. (New Jerusalem Bible)
In Canada, Ontario winters often seem never-ending. I grew up in Ottawa, trudging through snow as early as Halloween. Deep snow lasted well into March, sometimes April or even May. Winter conditions began long before winter officially started and didn't really end until well into spring. Winters were not only long, but windy, and often bitterly cold.
But what rejoicing there was when winter's hold finally broke! After a long deep-freeze, the sun would break through with brilliant warmth, and the pungent smell of spring would at last fill the bright air. Let the joy begin! People would gather, walking the streets, rejoicing with each other, almost dancing! New life!
My family now lives in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where green Christmases are common and golf courses think about re-opening in mid-February. There is no talk of wind chill factors, no real winter thaw. I don't miss those bitterly cold Ontario days, nor do I lament the early arrival of spring's promise. But oh, I do miss those joy-filled early spring days, when strangers gather on the streets, rejoicing that winter's grip is finished. Warm, easy, long summer days were to follow, and celebration was in order.
So it is with Holy Week. In our rush towards Easter, there is a danger in moving from the high of Palm Sunday right through to the joy of Easter morning. If we bypass Good Friday, if we choose not to experience the dark agony and despair of Jesus and the crushed hopes of his disciples, we forfeit the real experience of Easter. It is only when we partner with Jesus as he cries out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, and walk with him on that sorrowful journey to Golgotha, and hear the nails, and feel the piercing, that we can experience the real joy of Easter morning. Only then can we cry out with real elation, "He is risen!" Only then can we experience such an unrestrained joy that we, too, may be driven to dance on the streets together.
Prayer: Father, Good Friday is so hard. It is our shame. We want to change the ending. We want Jesus to be able to bypass the suffering that he did for our sakes. Yet we know that it is only through a walk by his side during Holy Week that we can truly experience the elation of repeating the Christian's favourite words, "He is risen! He is risen, indeed!" Amen.
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