For many Christians, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter is one of joy and celebration. From the shouting of “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches to heralding Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem to the amazing news of resurrection on Easter morning, there is much that is exciting and wonderful. But I always wonder what the week between was really like for Jesus. Each of the gospels provides a different view of the week, but in common they share a time of mounting anxiety, conflict and uncertainty. There is evidence that the pressure took quite a toll on Jesus, making him act out in unique and powerful ways. Cursing the fig tree, overturning the merchants and money-changers' tables, being petulant with his followers – we see a different side of Jesus from what we are used to.
But reflect with me for a moment what might have been going through the mind of Jesus in his final days. First, there is truly no clear evidence that after all their time together, the disciples truly understood what Jesus was all about. In fact, the evidence points just the opposite way. They bicker about who may sit at his right and left hand; they pout; they are confused; they deny knowing him – nothing to give Jesus confidence that they know what they are doing.
With the exception of John’s gospel, there is little evidence that Jesus clearly understands what is to come. He says the right words, but there are clearly doubts. He teaches the disciples, but he acts in ways that belie his confidence. The very human side of Jesus sees clearly what is coming, and he is unsure that he can go through with it.
How many of us, facing conflict and confrontation, question whether it is worth it or not? How many of us willingly give ourselves over to pain, suffering, abuse, violence, let alone death by something so monstrous as crucifixion? What would we do in similar situations? What do we do in much less demanding circumstances?
Courage is not defined simply in what we do, but in what we are willing to do. True courage is what impels us to stand up to the very things that we most hate and fear. We sometimes overlook the incredible courage of Jesus during this final week. And we sometimes forget the incredible love Jesus showed in caring for and serving – not his ‘disciples’, but his friends – during his final hours.
In a few days, we will celebrate once again the incredible miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We will reflect again on what this means to us as the people of God, the followers of Jesus, and the Spirit-empowered Body of Christ. But I invite us this week to give as much thought to the very human Jesus who faced such terrible challenges before we jump to the glorious divine conqueror Christ. For it is Jesus the man who gave all that we might receive the benefit and blessing of the Messiah.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Amen.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).