Palm Sunday - When we started out this morning, Jesus at the height of his ministry. He was ushered into Jerusalem with Hosannas ringing out. People gathered, singing and crying out to him and they spread branches and cloaks on the ground. As foretold in scripture, Jesus - Messiah - was riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.
And in four short days, it all changes - he is hunted down and arrested, tried and convicted, and finally put to death. I don't like my heroes to be beaten - defeated. My heroes are supposed to go on being heroes - not hunted down like a common criminal.
So, Lord, what part do I play in this travesty of justice?
I hear the voice of Jesus - it speaks to all of us across the centuries.
"Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?"
How many people have I betrayed, Lord, as I have casually drifted through this life? Who have I wounded as I struggled to get ahead, or have my own way? Is that the reason you had to die - to pay the price for my sin?
"Peter, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times."
How many times have I not stood up for what I know is right? How many times have I overlooked the opportunity to share your name, your love, or your mercy? Where is the grace that I should have shown to others? I also hear the rooster when I forget you.
"Father, forgive them - they don't know what they are doing."
How often do we walk through life, without a clue about what we are doing or the effect it has on someone else? How many times do we forget to think about those who come after us? And can we, like you, forgive those who have wronged us? What an example to follow! How many times have I wanted to condemn instead of forgive - in both small and large things - things affecting me? Or self-righteously things I only see or hear from afar? Forgive me, Father, for the pain I have caused in others.
"Today, you will be with me in paradise."
Ahhh, here is the promise. James and John asked to be seated at Jesus' right and left in his kingdom - and although they would drink the cup Jesus drank, suffer here on earth - in paradise they would be with Jesus - just as the thief on the cross would be with Jesus - just as you and I will be with Jesus.
"Into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit."
Can we, like Jesus, put our faith in God? -- Trust that He will take care of us and receive us into that heavenly kingdom? Can we, like Jesus, give it all to God? Father, take this life and make it whole.
These were sound bites from the man they had grown to trust, to love even. It didn't mean much at the time - but as time went by, they began to understand and to realize the great love that God had for them -- and that Jesus exhibited as he walked that way -- the Via Dolorosa -- the way of suffering and sorrow.
This week, I invite you to meditate on this journey and ask God what He wants you to know and understand about His great love - a love that transcends pain and death - a love that transcends suffering and loss - a love that transcends time and space to be as real and present now as it was 2000 years ago.
Come, Lord Jesus, fill our hearts and our minds that we might glimpse the love that suffered and died willingly - so that we might find peace and strength in the presence of You, Lord Jesus. Amen.