With loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. (Luke 23:23-24)
No law can withstand human demands.
No governor forestalls foregone conclusions.
We stand amidst the crowd, shouting
For the death of our God to satisfy
Our anger. With no words for the crowd
And no words for Pilate, Jesus submits
Meekly to the grinding gears. No tears
Now from the King who is not of this world.
No harsh rebuke of a holy and awesome God.
No one leaps to His aid. No angels fall
From the skies. No one stops what has now
Been set into motion. The cold, cruel world
Reaches out for destruction, but still,
Even still, there is divine intention.
Hidden within and without from our eye,
God is working, transforming our reality.
This is the third in a group of six original poems composed for Holy Week, including:
The man who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. (Luke 22:63)
The mouths made by Him
through whom all things were made –
The mouths in which the gift
of language was given to bless –
Those mouths now rage against
their Creator with cruel curses.
The hands held by Him
from the earliest moments of life –
The hands that hold, hug,
greet and build –
Those hands descend in fast fury
to deconstruct their Maker.
This is the second in a group of six original poems composed for Holy Week, including:
Holy Week is the pinnacle of our Lenten journey, drawing us into the Passion of Jesus. This year, our Holy Week journey finds us simultaneously facing into one of the worst crises of our lives with the COVID-19 pandemic. This past weekend I reflected on the significance of this intersection of Holy Week and COVID-19, leading me to write these ten reasons our Holy Week journey can become more powerful during the time of the virus.
- Stripped – In this time, our activities and lives feel stripped of so much that seems normal. We can fight against this, or we can enter into it with an openness to what God may want to do with us during this time. I think of the physical reality that Jesus was stripped of His garments (Matthew 27:28) speaking to His complete yielding to the Father’s will. May we, too, enter into this Holy Week with humble openness to God. This is no passivity nor resignation, but the living trust in God as our Good Shepherd these days.
- Helplessness – During this time, we encounter our helplessness more clearly than ever before. We are put in touch with one of the central realities of the Lenten journey, which is that we are helpless in life apart from God. We can more deeply cry out to God, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
- We all will face death – Lent teaches us about the fragility of life, and the truth that we will all face death. Death is unavoidable for all human beings, even if we do believe that there is hope of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ journey to the Cross brings into sharp focus this great reality, while also reminding us that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).
- Consolation removed – Because of public health considerations, we face the removal of many of our normal consolations in life, such as friendships, meals with others, and many of the normal pleasures of life. In Holy Week, we see Jesus stepping beyond the consolations of human experience into the place of desolation. He loses His dignity, His clothing, His friendships, and eventually His life. As we let go of many of our own consolations, it reminds us of everything that Jesus lost during His Passion.
- Forsakenness – The ultimate desolation is Jesus’ forsakenness from the Father, and the isolation that results. Some of us may feel abandoned in this time, even forsaken by God. Jesus’ cry of dereliction from the Cross shows us how great the sense of abandonment was between Jesus and the Father as He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In our own forsakenness and isolation we experience some measure of the weight of Jesus’ forsakenness for us.
- Suffering surrounds – In the news and in our lives, we are suddenly surrounded by human suffering. We cannot shelter ourselves from it, as some of us have had the luxury of doing in times past. When insulated from the suffering, we often wonder why Jesus’ suffering should be necessary. However, when we face suffering so clearly, we are put in touch with the reality of Jesus’ suffering on the way to the Cross. This makes us more aware of the cost of Jesus’ Passion in Holy Week.
- Mental anguish – When praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said to God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Luke tells us that Jesus experienced such anguish that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). As we wrestle with mental pressure and struggles with anxiety because of COVID-19, we are able to have some sense of the weight of the world pressing in upon Jesus during Holy Week.
- Tears for those in need – Because of the pandemic, we now see the suffering of others so clearly that it becomes heartbreaking to us. Often times our hearts are hardened to others, but this is softening us to the reality of human need. As Jesus looked at Jerusalem after the triumphal entry, He “saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Our tears meet with Jesus’ tears over those in need for humanity as we journey through this week.
- Hungry to belong – Our hunger for belonging is high in this time of physical distancing. We miss shaking hands or giving hugs. We miss having grandchildren sit on our laps to read a story or passing dishes around the table with friends. We want to experience relationship, and we can do that thanks to technology, but the barriers are high. This leads us into an encounter with our own needs and loneliness that we often try to avoid. We realize that underneath this is not just our longing for God, but also the God who longs for relationship with us. His longing is so high that He will suffer anything to bring reconciled relationship and belonging.
- Longing for hope – Our longing for hope – for life after this death – pulses like the beating of our hearts. We cannot wait for this to “be over,” so that we can return to “life as normal.” We all know that life will not be the same normal that we experienced before, but we still hope for it. How much more meaningful is the resurrection of Jesus Christ than in these days where the longing for hope rises up more sharply than ever before?
Jesus walked into Jerusalem hailed as a king. Within a few days, the crowd was calling for His execution: “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” (John 19:15).
A thorny crown fiercely adorned His kingly head (19:2). Purple robes signaled His royalty as soldiers spit on Him, slapped Him and mocked Him (19:3). But the only throne given to this King was a rough and brutal wooden cross (19:18). They raised Him up on it for all the world to see. A sign saying “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” displayed His identity in mocking irony (19:19).
Weak and pitiful, naked and bloody, thirsty andRead More »
There are times in our lives when we falter in our seeking after God. The winds and rains of life’s pressures come against us and try to put out the fires of our passion for the Lord.
Those times are not unlike Jesus’ parable of the seed and soils. There, Jesus describes how we receive God’s word in the same way that different types of soil receive seeds. Based on the type of soil, there are different end-results of fruitfulness or lack thereof. When the stresses, fears and confusion of daily life become too great, they can eclipse the light of God’s presence. We decrease in passion for Him and, as a result, we lose our fruitfulness in Him.
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Apostle was urging this young church to continually stoke the fires of their passion for God.Read More »