This holy week we have meditated on your final earthly hours in an effort to renew our faith. We wanted to witness again the power of your resurrection in the midst of our sometimes dark and troubled world. A world strangely not unlike the one which you visited so long ago.
But our meditations on the empty tomb revealed more of our true selves than we care to admit.
We, like the crowds, rejoiced and pranced and danced and sang – our children selves crying out enthusiastic praise, unrestrained, and unashamed we rejoiced that you had come to save us from our oppression under the yoke of the powers that be and sin and self-deception.
We ran beside your little donkey throwing our coats on the ground as an impromptu red carpet, welcome to Jerusalem – our Jerusalem. Welcome conquering king, come to save us.
And yet, mere hours later we, like the crowds, found ourselves disillusioned and with equal abandon crying out our slanderous displeasure that you did not save us in the way we wished. There were no endless hilltop feasts of fish and bread, no end to sickness, no end to poverty, no end to theft, no end to violence, no end to political corruption, no end to endless ways your word could be manipulated for personal gain.
This holy week, we, Jesus, like your most intimate friends, found ourselves weak and vacillating. One minute on an emotional high, light-headed in the rarefied air of your presence, then dull of mind and spirit sleeping through life’s most important moments, and then scattered – betrayers, deniers, fearful, not knowing what to believe, or if we believe – our expectations and personal hopes unraveled, and our popular theologies bankrupt.
This is our holy week – every week! We strive to worship you with all our being and yet are whipped around by our emotions, expectations, and our inadequate understanding of what you have been patiently trying to show us and tell us.
And yet your gracious kindness breaks through even our clouded minds and hearts. Breaks through our disillusionment, unrealistic expectations, broken theologies and fearful, angry attempts to cling to our own dying selves. Even on the cross you were caring for the immediate concerns of those nearby, granting forgiveness, opening a door to paradise for the rebellious.
And then there is the empty tomb. For those women who remained at the foot of the cross and were the first to come to your tomb early Sunday morning, for those women who were as confused and hurt as your closest disciples, you gave the privilege to be the first witnesses of your resurrection.
To two sorrowful, weary followers, trudging by evening light – two students who listened outside the window as you instructed the twelve, lurkers who hung around at the edge but didn’t belong to the inner circle, you gave the privilege of intimate conversation that opened their minds to something greater than they had imagined. Something greater than the social, political, and economic justice they longed for and expected you to bring.
To Thomas, who wanted and needed to experience what the others had experienced, you granted a special audience. To Peter you gave the opportunity for redemption from denial and a confirmation of his calling.
In this holy week, we have gone from rejoicing to deep darkness and then into blinding light. This holy week has revealed something about our true selves and it has not been pleasant. We discovered we are not the people we want to be. We are not the people we believed we were. But standing outside the empty tomb we are regaining our perspective. And so we humbly ask, on the basis of what we have witnessed, that you hear and grant our prayer.
We want to be like you, that in our darkest hour, when all seems lost and there is no way to recover, that the certainty of the resurrection will override our fear and anger. That we might, extend forgiveness, relieve the distress of others, and open the door for someone else to find you.
We want to be like the women at the foot of the cross, who though confused and demoralized remained steadfast. We want, like them, to be fleet of foot, ready to run with the good news that things are not as they seem, that you are not dead. That God has done this great thing. That all will be made new. And, in this, to be like you who gives the often marginalized the highest honors. Putting the last first.
We want to be like the two on the road to Emmaus – curious minds, willing to be corrected, willing to have our inadequate understanding and popular theologies set right. And, in this, to be like you, patiently and carefully instructing others in the Way.
We want to be like Peter who took your gentle but firm rebuke in order to receive your blessing. Correction and call. And in this we want to be like you, extending not just forgiveness but a pathway of redemption. Confronting fellow believers when necessary with unmistakable firmness tempered with unmistakable love.
But, in this holy week, may we confess that we are more like Philip and Thomas than not. We like to be shown. “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied. Show us your hands, your side, your feet.”
Though you told Thomas, “[more] blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”, we harbor in our hearts the belief that if we could just but see you, things would all be well. And indeed they will be. Until that day, by your grace, we are your servants – confronting, forgiving, comforting, teaching, running in sandaled feet to tell of the good news that a new day has dawned, the tomb is empty, the Son has risen, you are risen indeed.
And now, dear Jesus, to you be the honor and glory and power forever, and ever, and ever. Amen.
— Written by Dr. Richard White