Jesus’ journey to the cross ends today as he is raised up on the tree for all to see. As Christians, this is an essential event in our faith story. Knowing that, however, doesn’t make it any less excruciating for us to imagine. I can almost feel each blow and hear each taunt jeered at Jesus. I have to shut out the noise of the world to do so, but that’s how I want to spend my quiet time today. I want to feel closer to Jesus.
I can’t help but think about what Jesus was feeling besides the agony. Was he picturing all of our faces as he endured his torture? And what about Jesus’ abusers? Imagine what evil must be burning inside for them to commit such a deed on another human. What kind of mindset must they have had to reconcile their actions?
My focus today is on what happened that night in the garden. But, before we reflect on that, it’s good to remember what happened right before. Jesus had just shared the final meal he would share with his closest friends. We recognize the elements of our present day sacrament, Holy Communion. So many truths were revealed during the meal, I’m sure the disciple’s heads were spinning.
Jesus’ response to all of that was to pray. It sounds like praying in the garden was a regular thing. This time, Jesus was hoping the disciples would to stay awake and ponder all that was happening. Jesus knew that he needed his Father more than ever this night. I try to put myself there in the garden, too. With all that Jesus had just shared, I don’t think I could have fallen asleep!
Imagine you’re with Jesus to share a meal, and, all of a sudden, he wants to wash your feet! I think I would have been a little bit like Peter, aghast at what the Messiah was doing. In those days, a lowly servant was the one who would cleanse the master’s feet. After all, in those days, dusty roads and sandals would leave dirty, smelly feet.
But Jesus’ response surprised me. Did it surprise you when he said, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” What does that even mean? Clearly, the lesson Jesus intended from this experience went beyond having clean feet or doing something nice for others. To not belong to Jesus would be a frightening reality.
As we walk through Holy Week together with Jesus, today we meet up with him in the Temple. Our last reading shared about the triumphant entry into Jerusalem followed by his outburst in the temple overturning money changers. It’s a rare moment when we see Jesus display his humanity with such anger. The leading priests and leaders are curious and call Jesus out on such behavior.
Jesus handles the confrontation well. He could have been annoyed that his teaching was interrupted. After all, he knew that his days were few. Yet, in the few verses we read today, we see how Jesus stays poised and very effective in his communication. Jesus used this opportunity as a teachable moment and started telling stories.
When you think of Palm Sunday, what is the first memory that comes to your mind? Please share in the comments. I’m expecting that waving palm fronds and processionals in church come to mind. These are precious memories that help us remember a special day!
I had the honor and privilege to teach Mexican children about Palm Sunday this year. While we have plenty of palm trees in our neighborhood, I wasn’t keen on climbing them to pull down some palm leaves, so we used balloons for our praise and adoration time. To see the delight on the children’s faces and imagine that it was seeing Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem with that much joy was very moving.