On occasion, life is jarring in its contrasts. Years ago, I was at a funeral home following the deaths of two 23-year-olds. In the foyer were family and friends of each of these young people. In the chapel to the left was the family of a vibrant young Christian girl, married only two years, who had succumbed to cancer. That room was filled with the Presence of God, people sharing testimonies, laughing and crying, the young husband, bereft but supported by a loving church family. The chapel to the right of the foyer, was the opposite. The young man had committed suicide. The atmosphere in the room was bleak. Most of those present were inebriated and/or high. All were visibly devastated, angry, hopeless. That was a tough visit. Another time was on the way to the cemetery to bury my father and I noticed someone mowing his lawn – such an ordinary everyday activity on an anything but ordinary day. On a much brighter note, the morning of our wedding, a group of friends took me out for breakfast. The restaurant was packed with families enjoying a typical, warm Saturday morning in July in South Carolina. I was in such a state of euphoria I could barely focus on the conversation or the food (I have zero recollection of what I ate or who all was at the table with me – sorry y’all!).
Today is Thursday of Holy Week. Just like the day before any holiday weekend, Jerusalem, overflowing with Passover visitors, would have been boisterously loud, in a mad scramble to get the last provisions in before sundown. I can picture Jesus, staying out of the maelstrom, but observing the frantic preparations. This, for him, was anything but a typical Passover celebration. In fact, it would be an historic, global gamechanger. Listening to the excited banter of the revelers swirling past him, oblivious to the gathering storm, he would have been taken aback by the contrast between his thoughts and theirs. For the average Jew, this was a high point in the year, a beautiful tradition, a perfect excuse to overindulge, to party, to visit, to gossip, to get caught up with those rarely seen. For Jesus, knowing his pivotal role as the Passover Lamb, the perfect, once for all, sacrifice for all the partygoers elbowing their way to the fruit, vegetable, and spice stalls in the market, the weight of all that was coming was intense. He focused on the evening’s precious time together with friends. But through devious planning on Judas’ part, the events of this evening, and this year’s feast, would end entirely differently from all previous and all future festivals. Love coursing through his veins, heaven’s angel army applause already in his ears, the Father’s soon embrace almost palpable, his befuddled disciples still leaning in heavily for support, he made his way to the appointed room to wrap up his ministry – and prepare to die – for you and for me. PD