So many events taking place in our world leave us aching for the comfort and peace promised in Holy Scriptures. We long for an end of tyranny, violence, hatred, corruption, and negativity. Having said that I cannot go without noticing or without saying that our situation is so similar to that of the citizens of Israel during the Holy Week we “celebrate” this week.
Consider their expectations of the promised Messiah as he rode into Jerusalem on that day we call Palm Sunday. The news of the miracles of this “prophet” had spread throughout the kingdom. When he had fed the 5,000, we are able to read in the the Gospel of John, chapter 6 that the people surmised Jesus to be “the Prophet who is to come into the world” and that Jesus knew they intended to force him to be their king.
The people longed for a king who would cast out the Roman tyrants. A king who would bring peace to their kingdom. A king who would value their lives and put an end to the system of injustice that prevailed. They seemed to know that that “king” was coming to them at last!
As Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey they hailed him as their Savior. They cheered him and shouted for him to save them. The crowd lining the street were there because of the hope that was burning in their hearts. But hope is a fragile commodity. By the end of the week, the crowds disappeared and were replaced by a few faithful friends gathered on a hill outside Jerusalem called Calvary.
Holy Week is bookended by an event that brings those who study scripture back to the expectations of the palm-waving crow. The men on their walk to Emmaus had held that same hope. As they plodded on their way, they shared their disappointment with each other. Perhaps their discussion included these thoughts: Just a week ago we waved palm branches as we greeted him. Hailed him! Called for him to save us! Considered ourselves blessed, for we thought he was riding into Jerusalem to over throw those Roman Tyrants. We saw the religious leaders frowning and knew that when Jesus was in charge of the Temple it would be in godly, holy hands. The hands of the one we believed to be the long-awaited Messiah—the Son of God. He told us to let our light shine into all the world but now — how do we even have a light? What are we to do?
All they knew was that Jesus had been crucified, declared dead and buried. Some women found his tomb empty and claimed that they saw an angel telling them he had risen. Some of the disciples are said to have also seen the empty tomb. They hadn’t seen any of this themselves and were trying to figure out if was even possible for any of those things to even have happened.
If we put ourselves in their place many of us would be “doubting Thomases.” We struggle to believe what we cannot see. We’re basically show me people. If it can’t be proved you can’t possibly expect me to believe such a “tall tale.” We’re people who tend to fill in the blanks with our own expectations of what did or could happen.
The two men in the scripture had no concrete information to re-anchor their hopes. They were plodding along with broken hearts, broken dreams, and souls that were totally confused.
This year, if we are honest, there is a similarity of our lives to these disciples and that first Easter. The people who gathered to greet Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and these men on the walk to Emmaus had a longing, an expectation that is so like our current situation. We long for the tyrants to be cast out. We long for an end of violence and anger and hate and poverty. We long for the Light of the World to return and bring peace into our lives. The fear and isolation created by the pandemic had taken away the joyous church services that many of us have looked forward to each week. All week long the TV displays violence and corruption but on Sunday we seek peace, comfort, and hope during our time with each other in God’s presence. Watching the services on TV during the past year has indeed been strange.
With this separation and isolation has come fear and depression. Some are asking “Where is God when I need Him?” Truth is; the Word of God tells us that He is with us all the time and that Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us. Truth is; we just don’t take the time to look for Him. This fear that we have allowed to have a priority in our hearts and minds stops us from seeing Jesus beside us, not just during dark time, but each day. Fear stops our faith, it halts our hope, it isolates our belief, and it causes love to be withdrawn.
We really, really need to remind ourselves the entire Easter story that includes God’s plan and His purpose for our lives. We really, really need to remind ourselves of God’s love for each and every one of us. We really, really need to remind ourselves that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. We really, really need to remind ourselves that everyone who believes in Jesus as their Lord and Savior have claimed God’s promise of Eternal Life. This is the hope that burns within our souls. We have been offered the light of Christ crucified and risen from the dead. We have no need to fear the future for He is with us, walking beside us, and reminding us that we are His; His Beloved Children!
Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
The writer is the the chaplain at Ohio Living Dorothy Love and does pastoral care at Sidney First United Methodist Church.