We are in the midst of Holy Week in the Christian Calendar. The week commemorates the journey Jesus took from his home in Galilee into Jerusalem during the festival of Passover. As so often happens, the Christian story of Easter runs parallel to the Jewish Festival of Passover.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday which was last Sunday. Borrowing imagery from the Hebrew text of Zachariah (9:9), Jesus comes to Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah will herald the coming Kingdom of God riding on an ass. As we explored last week, Jesus is widely believed to be the one who would save the Hebrews from the Romans. They stand out waving palm fronds as if to hail a new King. Yet Jesus comes not as a king but as a sacrifice, according to Christian teaching.
On Holy Monday Jesus enters the temple and clears it of money changers, proclaiming a new kingdom is at hand. On Tuesday Jesus is said to have told his disciples that his death is imminent and with it to prepare for the Kingdom of God to arrive on earth.
Spy Wednesday is said to be the day when Judas made a deal with the Jewish authorities to turn Jesus over to the Romans. It is believed that Jesus knew of Judas’ betrayal and that he now had a spy in the midst of his disciples.
On Maundy Thursday Jesus and his disciples sit down to the Last Supper wherein he proclaims the Eucharist: that the bread shall be his body and the wine shall be his blood. It is a somber affair as Jesus proclaims that he would be betrayed and that even his closest disciple Peter would deny him three times. This is also the time when Jesus washes the feet of all his disciples to model servant leadership in the days after he is gone.
Good Friday is anything but good other than it sets the stage for his resurrection on Easter Sunday. This is the day Jesus is arrested, tried and condemned to death by crucifixion. By that evening, Jesus has died and is laid in a tomb. Black Saturday is the time of waiting. A vigil is kept in the dark; the tomb is dark as those who remain wait for his resurrection.
Easter Sunday, the stone is rolled away from the Tomb and Jesus is gone, risen to God. This is the story which defines the heart of Christianity: Jesus died for our sins and is now at the right hand of God.
In many ways this journey from peasant to messiah to the Son of God is a story of becoming. It could mirror our lives as well. All of us have had high hopes for our future, perhaps even a dream of greatness. Those in their twenties and thirties are often consumed with pursuing this dream, starting careers and families and imaging how their lives will be. But as with all dreams, reality sets in; we realize that there are limits to what we can do. Raising a family is harder than we imagined. Relationships seem wrought with troubles. We march into the future but we soon realize we are not as royal as we once thought we were.
And then comes the hard work of mid-life, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of our lives. Here we begin to realize that we are not satisfied with the material world, we search for meaning that goes beyond the tables of money we see before us. We may also imagine our own mortality for the first time as we find ourselves facing health issues or children (or elderly parents) that have issues we couldn’t imagine. This can be like falling into the valley of trouble, and we yearn to find our way out again.
By late mid-life, we climb out of the valley towards a second mountain; we struggle through our Good Friday towards a new day. This is the real resurrection that we all go through. As David Brooks in his book The Second Mountain puts it, “You don’t climb the second mountain the way you climb the first mountain. You conquer your first mountain. You identify the summit, and you claw your way toward it. You are conquered by your second mountain. You surrender to some summons, and you do everything necessary to answer the call and address the problem or injustice that is in front of you. On the first mountain you tend to be ambitious, strategic, and independent. On the second mountain you tend to be relational, intimate, and relentless.”
Many of us are in the midst of this journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, especially in this pandemic. Some of us have lost loved ones, others are dealing with illness, and some of us are struggling to make ends meet. We are climbing out of the valley unto the second mountain, moving from our old life into a new life. Like Jesus, all of us are on the Journey to Becoming. Let us keep the hope of that rebirth before us.
See you on Easter morning,