The week just prior to “Palm Sunday” is probably one of the most solemn weeks in the year for me. I find that I am filled with great grief during this week – every year. Not because I need to psych myself up for the holy days and what they represent; but, because of the stuff that was happening for Jesus in the week just before he enters Jerusalem. That week for Jesus is probably like any other week he experienced on earth – it is not an unusual week, and that, I think, is the very point. The week before Holy Week could be called “Mundane Week.” The collection of stories that emerge from that week, as Jesus wanders about on planet earth, describe varied contexts that hold in common a single variable – Jesus interacting with humans. On display are the experiences, the emotions, the motivations of human personhood. But what makes the record of that week so lamentable, for me at least, is the great yawning chasm between what it means to be human and who we have become as humans. That distance becomes unbearably glaring when the brilliant, enfleshed Son of God meanders alongside the other examples of human persons present along his pathway. Jesus of Nazareth in every nuance and expression with breathtaking simplicity portrays what it actually means to be human, in the way human beingness is meant to be. In my mind, when I envision the contrast between the corrupt and faded nature of human persons in their now tawdry commonness with the beauty of Jesus Christ -I have no place else to go – but to deep sorrow.
So, what exactly is happening in the week prior to Holy Week that evokes the lamentation? Well, there are a series of stories about people, just being people and Jesus, just being Jesus. I’m sure many other things were going on around Jesus, in that week before Holy week, but here are the things that seemed noteworthy enough for the ancient biographers of Jesus to record: Jesus telling the outcast Jew, Zacchaeus, who collaborated with the occupying forces, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”, Jesus asking two blind men, “what do you want me to do for you?”, Jesus defending a reformed sex trade worker for spending money on a lavish gift for him, “leave her alone so that she may keep it for the day of my burial”, Jesus aware of the mounting evidence that a friend, Judas, was stealing from him, Jesus correcting his dear friends who were immersed in an oppositional power struggle each wanting the best position in the coming kingdom, “the Son of man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many”, and of course, Jesus’ knows that plans are being made by the chief priests to take not only his life, but also, to kill his friend Lazarus.
The story of the human condition is bleak: traitors and collaborators – Zacchaeus and Judas, narcissistic followers – James, John and the whole lot, viciously jealous religious leaders – the high priests, physical ailments leading to impoverishment and beggary – the blind men, and moral corruption – sex trade workers. How can an observer look into the human story, just an average day on planet earth, and not feel deep and soul-wrenching sadness? Or have we becomes so accustomed to our shared story that it doesn’t shock, it doesn’t revolt and it doesn’t even surprise us? Have we become so jaded by the corruption that when we look, we no longer really look at all? Is it like the Compassion Canada ads – we see the starving child and immediately change the channel or intentionally justify why we cannot or need not respond?
I think this must be what has happened: for you and for me. Otherwise, how could we who live in Thunder Bay not be up in arms about the fact that as of 2014, 30% of infants being born in our regional hospital are opiate-addicted and the statistics continue to rise in 2015/2016?1How could we complacently accept the fact that 17 people died on the streets of Thunder Bay in 2015?2How could the human family look on these egregious statistics in their own city and not immediately begin forming coalitions of care and compassion? How could the Christian family inhabit a city in such a severe social crisis and not begin to divest themselves of time, resources and money so that they can love the city in Jesus name?
Jesus, in the week before Holy Week had the following responses to the social problems in his city: he stated that he came to seek and to save the lost, he asked the blind beggars how he could help them, he told his power-hungry, resource-hoarding followers that he came to serve and give his life away to many
As I prepare my heart for Holy Week, I am filled with wonder and awe that Jesus has me, my city and my world on his heart. That he truly came to seek and to save that which was lost – so he came to seek and to save me. Jesus came for me – this gives me courage and hope to know that I can journey with him into the margins and nooks and crannies of my city – where hope and beauty can be restored!