After Jesus finished teaching: “He said to his disciples, ‘You know after two days the Passover is coming and the Son of man will be handed over to be crucified’.” Matthew 26:1-2
“On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ Matthew 26:17
Imagine that major holiday when your family gathered in a loved one’s home to celebrate with special foods and traditions passed down through generations. After more than a week of shopping, baking and cooking, decorating and coordinating, you finally checked up on who’s still coming and who canceled at the last minute when the dog got sick. Next year…
Today is like that. Passover began Wednesday of this week for our Jewish neighbors and friends, that major holiday commemorating the Biblical story of the Hebrew liberation from slavery into Egypt. Families at Seder meals reverently recall the ancient sacrifice of an unblemished lamb that marked homes with a sign of their life commitment to God. The forces of destruction “passed over” houses of the faithful ones as a dark time in Jewish history ended.
I’m curious about whether or not the disciples even registered Jesus’ fore-knowledge that this Passover would be his last, busy as they were with preparations for the sacred meal. As readers of the Biblical story, we see clearly what they may have missed. After we’ve stuffed ourselves with lamb and sweet potato casserole, one of our family members suddenly gets arrested and subsequently dies while they are in the custody of the authorities. We never see them again this side of heaven again.
That’s what makes Holy Week so complicated and emotional, isn’t it? We love the music, and the fronds, and the message that celebrates Palm Sunday. Whether we watch on-line or come to church with family and friends, we’re hope-filled and happy. Even when we’re struggling personally, we’re grateful for the greatness of God.
Then comes Maundy Thursday…fear rises…anger rears its ugly head. Violence is the result of personal impotence grown unbearable. When we humans think our core values have been violated, and when we cannot see a way to reverse the outcome, we behave badly. We dig in, grow indignant, plot, scheme, do whatever it takes to get our way, whoever it hurts, whatever the cost.
And so it is that before the close of Maundy Thursday, we’ll drape the cross in black, blow out the Christ candle, and go home stricken at the sound of nails hammered into love.
As you can’t get to Easter without going through Good Friday, consider then stopping by a cemetery, or Veteran’s Island, or your local church memorial garden to lament all that was lost that day. Come to the Requiem on Good Friday, or Good Friday worship wherever you live, or take a walk and remember what you love about Jesus who died.
Come Sunday, we can only be surprised by joy if we’ve first been shocked by sorrow.
God’s grace, mercy and peace keep you through the long night,
Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Senior Minister, The Community Church of Vero Beach