Entering Holy Week

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
– Matthew 26:39 (NIV)

As I look upon the holiest week of the year, my heart bursts with gratitude for the One thing that never released its hold on me – connection with Jesus. The connection never left me: not when I was completely out of control with addictive behaviors; not when I was a selfish, self-centered teenager; not when I was a terrified child living in the dysfunctional home of a violent alcoholic; and not when I was wallowing in self-pity and dark depression. Jesus was always the one piece of the Trinity with which I could always identify. You see, His dad abandoned Him, too. At least, that’s how I have always “misinterpreted” it – until now.

My part-time seminary studies over the last four years have broken open this life-long misinterpretation I have had regarding the relationship of the Father and the Son. While I understand that the misinterpretation served a purpose for me for a very long time, I realize now that my perception of that relationship was skewed by my own experiences and beliefs. Because I felt as though my own father had abandoned me through his addictions and untreated mental illness, I knew Jesus could understand me. He went to His Father for relief from suffering and in response to His request, His Father tortured Him and hung Him on a cross to die. Today, I see this relationship so differently – and so much more filled with Grace.

Today, when I read about the events of the life of Jesus, most especially Holy Week, I am overwhelmed with the love God (the entire Trinity equally) expressed to the world. I remember the trials of Job and I see the recognition God conveyed to the world when He became human. I remember something Job said when speaking of God’s unfairness and defending his own character to his friends: “For he is not a mortal, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both.” (Job 9:32-33) I believe God heard Job’s despair that God could not truly comprehend mortality, absorbed it over time, and responded to it in the human life of Jesus. He, Himself, became human in order to reconcile all the sins of the world. He, Himself, suffered the life of human ailments and feelings in order to create the unbreakable bond of identification. He, Himself, smelled the smells of sickness, tasted the tastes of humiliation, and felt the feelings of abandonment that every human experiences. He, Himself, suffered the physical and emotional pain, along with the spiritual loneliness of human death. He, Himself, did all this to offer true relationship to all the world’s people.

In doing all this, God showed us how to live well through Jesus. He showed us how to love others through Jesus. He showed us how to surrender our flesh through Jesus. He showed us how to pray in the face of fear through Jesus. He experienced everything we have ever experienced – and everything we will ever experience – through Jesus. He showed us everything we ever needed to know through Jesus. He released His anger towards His people and wiped the slate clean through Jesus. He became our best friend through Jesus. And through Jesus’s promise of the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13), God now lives and breathes through each and every one of us in the Holy Spirit.

As I look upon this – the holiest week of the year – I am reminded of God’s willingness to be what I have needed Him to be in order to stay connected with me. Not just in my own life, but in the life of this world. He has transformed through His own Grace to offer us relationship: a relationship with Him and a relationship of brother- and sister-hood throughout the world. In Him, we are one. With Him, we all can face our fears through prayer, and together accept the will of our Father.

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