We are in the midst of Holy Week, that yearly reminder of the greatest lengths God went to rescue us from sin and death. Two startling events bookend these most pivotal moments in human history: Jesus made a triumphant but hardly regal entrance into Jerusalem on someone else’s donkey one weekend; He rises from the dead the next from someone else’s tomb, following a tortuous execution reserved for criminals of the worse sort.
This week of weeks constitutes the ‘real stuff’ of our Gospel, the veritable news and life-saving kyregma transmitted to us, individuals in a many-linked chain of hope, by faithful people through the ages. Their message we likewise believed on in faith and are now responsible to live by and pass on (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).
It is a history of epic proportions that stops all heaven in her wake. This great saga of God’s making is worth pondering about often, worth singing about daily, worth sharing about regularly and with urgent intent, to people we meet, near and wide who don’t yet know it (or may not yet care).
It is of first importance for you and me. It is good news with eternal ramifications for all, believers or not.
Yet, if we have ears to listen, we would be awe-struck again and again at the wonder of it all. Jesus, whose very word created everything, divested himself of heaven’s glory to become one of us.
He wandered all over Israel hounded and homeless (Luke 9:58). He was misunderstood and rejected by those closest to him – his own family and home-town (Mark 3:21; 6:4). He and his disciples depended on the generosity of others (Luke 8:3). This was not the life that Heaven’s King deserved.
He was, as the old prophesy had said he would be, ‘despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…’ (Isaiah 53:3).
J.C. Ryle, the great Bishop of Liverpool and theologian wrote: ‘When (Jesus) crossed the sea of Galilee, it was in a borrowed boat. When He rode into the holy city, it was on a borrowed beast. When He was buried, it was in a borrowed tomb…Who that reads the Gospels carefully can fail to observe that he who could feed thousands with a few loaves, was himself sometimes hungry; and he who could heal the sick and infirm, was himself sometimes weary; that he who could cast out devils with a word, was himself tempted; and he who could raise the dead, could himself submit to die?”
Yes, far more mind boggling that his humanity is this: God in Jesus submitted himself on our behalf, to a first-hand experience of unimaginable pain and a shameful death on a Roman cross. He left heaven for earth and went to hell to keep us from it. And He has the scars to show for it.
This Holy Week, let us be challenged anew to walk the way of the cross, to choose to live and die as Jesus did, for a purpose and a glory far greater than this world could ever supply.
Let us sing again, amidst the sacredness, silence and hope of a bloody cross and empty tomb, His song of love in sublime concert with His glorious purpose.
One which will ultimately overcome the syncopated rhythms and discordant melodies of our off-beat world, and call it to order, drowning it with an anthem far lovelier that earth could compose, transporting us to a kingdom far greater than history’s pretenders could build, at the feet of a King far nobler than earth’s famed academies could ever produce.
Let us fall down and worship our crucified, risen King.