Earlier in the week, I commented that my prayer this week would be that I could “dwell in the middle” of the story of Holy Week. That I would be able to ponder and contemplate the week that lead up to Christ’s execution and burial without rushing ahead to Sunday, If anything, though, captures the “middle of the story”, I think it might be Saturday – the day that falls in between when Death crushed life, and when Life crushed death (the capitalization and lack thereof in death and life in my last sentence was deliberate)
We come now to the center of it all
the day when Christ’s death started sinking in
when those who followed knew they’d seen him fall
when thoughts of Christ were thoughts of broken skin
Christ was dead, and dead, too, was their hope
and they knew that their lives were at risk too
so now they hid, not knowing how they’d cope
false seemed the only One they’d thought was true
They thought the story now was at an end
Christ’s body now was rotting in a tomb
had all His talk been truly just pretend?
such wretched agony filled them all with gloom
But now was not the ending of the play
Another act will follow the next day!
I wonder what all went through the disciples’ minds at that Last Supper when Jesus, the master, took on a servant’s role and washed his disciples’ feet. I have tried to capture what might have been the thoughts of Peter.
The One who’s sandals I’m unfit to tie
has turned the tables, kneeling at my feet
with water-bowl and cloth to wash and dry
while I, who should serve Him, stay in my seat
His humble action humbles all my pride
His servitude makes me desire to serve
that Christ has let me travel at his side
is more than I, a sinner, could deserve
But when I say “Lord stop! It should be me”
with love so deep, he looks me in the eye
and says, “My child, do you still not see
I do this now to show that you are mine”
Lord let this foot-wash merely be the start
for I need You to cleanse my sinful heart
The feet of Christ were spoken of by John1
who claimed he was unworthy to unclasp
the sandals that the Holy One had on
and so when Mary2 took and broke a flask
of costly perfume over those same feet
and then went on to wipe them with her hair
some of those present didn’t waste a beat
condemning what she’d done – how could she dare?
But Christ saw value – not unworthiness
He saw her love and loved her in return
where others cursed her, Jesus deemed to bless
accepting her when others tried to spurn
Each act of love, like perfume being poured
becomes a fragrant off’ring to the Lord
1 – John the Baptist
2 – Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus
My poems and thoughts this week have been largely inspired by “The Pilgrim Year: Holy Week” devotional book by Steve Bell (can be purchased from https://pilgrimyear.com/), as well as the poetry of Malcolm Guite’s book “Sounding the Seasons”, which I believe is available on Amazon. Malcolm has also been posting his poems on his blog, where you can also listen to him reading them (malcolmguite.wordpress.com). If you are not familiar with this poet, he is well worth the read/listen. He has a depth to his poetry that often leaves me speechless.
When the people in Jerusalem had shouted out their “hosannahs” when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, they were hoping that they had found a king to vanquish the occupying Romans. Here was a man who would finally turn the tables! How right they were. How wrong they were! Jesus would indeed “turn the tables”, but not in the way that the people were expecting!
They saw him come upon a donkey’s colt
and thought he’d come to claim an earthly crown
he’d lead them at long-last in a revolt
and kick the Roman army out of town
“He’ll turn the tables now” is what they thought
“and in that he will have our full support”
They thought that Rome would be his target…not
the money changers in the Temple court
But Christ had come to clear a path to God
and Rome was not the hindrance that he saw:
but those who’d turned religion into fraud
who’d cheat the poor in favour of “the law”
Come, Jesus! Turn the tables in my heart
that I might truly know how Great Thou Art!
Yes, Jesus turned the tables…but against his own people where they made mockery of what relationship with God should be. I hope that I captured some of that in my sonnet. The final couplet of the sonnet is my prayer that God would reveal to me those areas of my life where I have put obstacles in the way of having a true relationship with him…and being human, I know that I will always have those obstacles (until I meet with him in glory!)…but I desire that God would overturn those tables, so that I will be able to draw ever closer to Him!
The week leading up to Easter is an important time for me as a Christian. I believe that it is important to understand the events that led to the arrest and death of Christ before we can truly appreciate the Resurrection. My biggest problem with this is: I already know “the rest of the story”. I already know what happens on Easter Sunday…and yet, for my own spiritual growth, I feel the need to spend time dwelling in the middle of the story, so that, come Sunday, I can truly rejoice in the climactic triumph of Life over death.
Is it possible to mourn, though, when the happy outcome is already known? Perhaps the story of Lazarus might give us a clue: John 11 tells the story of the death of Jesus’ friend Lazarus…but also tells us how Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus already knew the whole story…even before Lazarus died. He knew that Lazarus would die, and he knew that he would bring him back to life…and yet…before he performs the miracle, John tells us in verse 36 of the chapter, “Jesus wept”. Jesus grieved over the passing of his friend. He grieved with Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother. He knew the triumph to come, and yet, he grieved in the middle of the story.
My prayer for this Holy Week is that God would allow me (and you) to dwell for a while in the middle of this story without rushing to the end. My prayer is that the victory of Easter will be made that much more glorious because of the grief of the week.
There are no good stories that consist of only the ending…the tragedy, the conflict, the challenges along the way are all crucial. The story of Christ is no different. Take the time to remember all the aspects of his life. Easter Sunday is coming, but don’t rush the story. I think we’ll all be richer for it if we allow ourselves to experience all the trials along the way.