Today is Good Friday. It’s a day that stands in contrast to Palm Sunday just five days ago. I have often wondered how someone could stand waving palm branches in one instant and turn around and wish death on the same person just days later. Maybe some would say it wasn’t the same group. I am sure there are rational ways of explaining it.
This past Sunday at church, our pastor reminded us that the triumphal entry was a celebration for the Jewish people present because they believed the Messiah had come. And Jesus, this Messiah in flesh, was entering just as the prophecies had said he would. And in that line of thinking, the next thing that should happen is this Messiah would overthrow the oppressive empire they lived under. They were celebrating a king who was about to change their social situation and begin a reign where they would be on top, where they would be victors. The days following that joyous march to Jerusalem would reveal a Messiah with different intentions – one who didn’t intend to overthrow systems through violence, but rather through peace and sacrifice. It may be that for some in the crowd celebrating Jesus as he rode on the donkey, the fact that Jesus would choose sacrifice wasn’t what they wanted and so they turned on him.
Even today, Jesus continues to invite us to walk with him. We are invited into the journey of faith. But the journey we expect to experience may not be the journey Jesus intends for us. The pomp and circumstance we anticipate may be replaced instead with dying to self and with sacrifice. And yet we are invited. And yet we are told that we will not be alone, no matter where the journey leads us. It is a sacred mystery to join the work Jesus calls us to.
During this Holy Week, I am reminded that our understanding of Christlikeness is often culturally bound. We can easily be led to worship only the victorious Savior of Easter Sunday. In doing so, we overlook the sacrificial peace he came to proclaim—a peace that did not include the overthrow of the empire of his day, rather a peace demonstrated by a relinquishing of rights. I think of my Ukrainian sisters and brothers who, in recent weeks, have talked about their renewed understanding and connection to the lament Psalms of the Old Testament.
I pray that in the days and years to come, we will worship the victorious Jesus who died and rose again on Easter Sunday and also be willing to walk into the places where we must embody sacrificial peace when called to do so.