Between Palm Sunday and Easter
This morning my reading was a glimpse of the future. From the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Jesus warned of continuing conflicts and wars to come, earthquakes and famines, with pestilences (that is, fatal epidemic diseases – sound familiar?) and other fearful events.
Still to come is world-wide distress (Jesus foretold), universal threat, off-the-charts anxiety. Then the natural order will be shaken up, including heavenly bodies. Through this time, those who stand for their beliefs will be accused and mistreated. When it seems everything is about to fall apart, Jesus will come back to take control and rescue his people.
The rest of the New Testament looks on the future as if this process had already started. The message for his followers, now as then? To be ready for the hardships. To be faithful while losing on all levels. With assurance that Christ continues with us until he wins out completely. Hardly a path of prophecy we can crack the code to calculate as to when. But like that week between Palm Sunday and Easter, it's a sober call to endure with hope. All the way to the cross, and after.
Joni Eareckson Tada, paralyzed from the neck down for over 40 years, reflected:
The cross is the center of our relationship with Jesus. The cross is where we die. We go there daily. It isn't easy.
Normally, we will follow Christ anywhere – to a party, as it were, where he changes water into wine, to a sunlit beach where he preaches from a boat. But to the cross? We dig in our heels. The invitation is so frighteningly individual. It's an invitation to go alone.
Suffering reduces us to nothing and as Soren Kierkegaard noted, “God creates everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use, he first reduces to nothing.” To be reduced to nothing is to be dragged to the foot of the cross. It's a severe mercy.
Jesus calls us to live between the glory of Palm Sunday and the loss of what is precious, even horror of the cross, before the greatest of reversals at Easter. Without knowing just how or when. Continually giving up, with joy, that we may gain what no one can take away.