Sabbath Evenings: Speechless
Over the years I have meditated on the events of Holy week, which begins today — it is the week above all weeks — the week when the followers of Jesus end the 40-day season of Lent and enter into the most significant event in human history: God’s saving work through Jesus. The week is now here and I am keenly aware of how the mood shifts quickly to “a full week of emotional highs and lows and the reconciliation of many terrible contradictions.” (Peter Giersch) Jesus in triumph and Jesus in agony is a compelling contrast that reduces me to silence.
Today is Palm Sunday and recalls Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The atmosphere is anything but silent. Loud Hosannas. Palm branches strewn along the way for the Son of David. In worship today the words of Matt. 21.1-11 were read. The words of v. 10 captured my attention: “And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying ‘Who is this?’ WHO IS THIS. I will not be silent here! This is my Jesus! “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest “Matt. 21.9.
Since this morning’s jubilant worship, the reality of a tragic week in my Savior’s life is settling in. I am quieted. I wonder . . .
Do you remember a painful event in your life when you were silenced? When your world came to a deafening hush? Or do you remember receiving tragic news that left you speechless? Emotions were stirred; angst, confusion, disorientation, sorrow, and grief. And yet, the words would not come. Even if you wanted to protest and cry out, you couldn’t because disbelief and powerlessness were stuck in your throat.
This describes how Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Holy week impact me.
The ancient church, for hundreds of years has observed these three days to be the final events of Jesus’ life. On Thursday night Jesus launched The Lord’s Supper, washed the feet of his disciples, gave the new commandment of love, and was arrested. Friday, or “Good Friday,” Jesus suffered a gruesome crucifixion and death. Saturday, we identify with our dear friend lying in the tomb meditating on His death and descent into hell to defeat Satan. “In ancient times, Christians would read from the Old Testament stories of salvation history all night long, and then celebrate resurrection with the dawn.” (Peter Giersch)
I have a tradition on Good Friday morning to stay in bed for several minutes. I lay there considering and meditating on the fact that by the time my alarm goes off, Jesus had been awake the entire night facing betrayal, mockery, and brutal scourging. “I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting.” (Is. 50.6) He was bounced from court to court moving Him closer to His death. I feel a queasy pit in my gut. I feel the angst and shock that this would have to happen to my Lord. Even knowing that He was submitting to the Father’s will, and what the Easter resurrection would bring — I am disquieted. “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.” (Is. 53.10) All this for you – for me. I’m silenced.
What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
(“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded“ by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676)
“Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” Habakkuk 2:20
Honestly, it would be easier for me to dismiss everything I have just shared with you. But I have learned that it is a right response to be offended and shocked speechless by the reality of the cross. I will turn away from pretending these days are the same as any other carrying on with my usual chatter and small talk conversation. To be silenced by the events of the coming week may be one of the Christian’s deepest acknowledgments of God’s complete story of love and sacrifice. My soul needs quiet reserve before fully celebrating the glorious redemption at the end of these dreadful days.
I urge you to do the same, dear reader and enter once again into the meaning of it all. Do not be afraid to think on such outrageous and scandalous events born out of a radical love for you and I. Take time to reflect on the Father’s mighty act of salvation through Jesus, His only Son. The Father had a beautiful purpose in giving up His Son. You. Me. God. Forever.
Francisco de Zurbarn (1598-1664), “Agnus Dei” (1635-40)