In this holiest of weeks between Palm Sunday and the great celebration of Easter, we take time to remember the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This became so evident in our church services yesterday. We began on the church patio with the Liturgy of the Palms and the congregation then entered the church in great procession, waving palm fronds, and heralding the coming of King Jesus into Jerusalem to the strains of “All Glory, Laud, and Honor to Thee Redeemer King!”
Yet within moments it seemed, the Narrative of Christ’s Passion – this year according to Luke’s Gospel – had taken us through His arrest in the Garden, His trumped-up charges and fake trials, His beatings and yes, even to the point of His crucifixion on Golgotha’s cross. We heard His final cry, “Father, into Thy hands I commit my Spirit,” and felt His final breath of life leave His body.
In less than an hour, we went from celebrating His entry into Jerusalem to shock at his gross mistreatment by the religious rulers of the time to mourning His suffering and death on the cross for us … for our sins.
So Holy Week is a time to remember Christ’s suffering – that He was willing to suffer because He loved us so … because He loved YOU so. Throughout this week, we will not reject or cast off the thought of suffering, but instead, we will take it out and hold it in our hand and gaze upon it as if it were some strange gem which though not pretty at first glance, holds great beauty and value when held in the right light – the light of Christ’s love for us.
As we remember the suffering of Jesus for us, I am also viewing human suffering more closely and realize I have a new appreciation for the value of suffering in our humanity also.
- Recovering from surgery with a body that still hurts, I find value in remembering that my current suffering is because God saved me from death last year to cancer.
- I have a friend who last year went through a fiery trial of false accusation and this year as he and his dear wife rebuild their life, they remember that the suffering they now encounter is because God delivered and vindicated him from the literal trial he endured.
- I have another friend, a “miracle man”, who died last December 18 from a major cardiac incident but God brought back to life and though the doctors had no hope for his survival, Jesus and his faithful wife had something very different in mind. Now three and half months later, he is not only alive but God is putting his entire life back together again. As he suffers to rebuild his life, body and mind, it is because God came to him in literal death and said, “Lazarus, come forth!”
I could list other friends who at this time are suffering – all strong believers in Jesus Christ. They have gone through a deep trauma, an extended fiery trial and they live with the residual of that great difficulty. That residual suffering is hard indeed, trust me, but it is not without great value. It is the strange gem of God’s goodness that comes to those who suffer and choose to find Christ in the midst of that suffering.
If I had a Holy Week message this year, it would be this: I believe with all my heart that in this time God is asking some of His dear ones to go through very difficult times. Yes, that in some sense He is sending us into the midst of these very difficult times. His desire is not that we be destroyed by these very difficult times, but instead that we will become stronger, more convinced of His greatness, and that we become bolder to proclaim that greatness to all who will listen to our stories of true suffering.
You see, when God calls us to suffer, if we will walk faithfully with Him through the suffering, we will be those who for our time can have the witness of Daniel in the lion’s den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and the man born blind and healed by Jesus so His glory will be displayed.
As we walk through this Holiest of Weeks, if you are suffering in any way, would you take out your suffering and hold it in your hand to gaze upon it in the light of Christ so that you might find the beauty that resides there? And if you know someone who is suffering, would you pray that instead of being overwhelmed by the suffering, they might become like Jesus of whom the writer of Hebrews said that “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.”
Take it from someone who knows – when we view suffering in the light of Jesus and what He has done for us, joy comes, joy remains, and joy becomes the message we share with others.
May this be for you a most blessed Holy Week,