Happy Easter, everybody! Christ is risen indeed, and it’s time to celebrate; a rough week is over and perhaps, as we gaze into the empty tomb, we can find rest for our souls.
It was a rough week, but not because it was busy or hectic or raining and snowing, hot and cold, seemingly all at the same time. It was rough because our family, our parish family, has a lot going on. We have brothers and sisters recovering from injury and illness and in the hospital with illnesses, surgeries; people in hospice, staring down their own mortality, and I’ve said two funerals this week and attended another. All the while we stayed true to the course that the Lord has set us on, straight to the Cross of Christ. That can all add up to a bit of a rough week for our parish family.
God’s grace is all over it, though, and as it always is. God has His mysterious way of getting us from point A to point B without us knowing quite how He does it, but one of the graces of Holy Week is that can trace the path that Jesus took; we can start from point A on Palm Sunday and, if we are mindful, reach point B on Easter having lived that journey with Him.
Point A is pretty triumphant, right, with palms waiving and no shortage of hosannas in the highest. There’s a few days of respite, really: Jesus leaves Jerusalem almost as soon as He had gotten there, but He walks out, having returned the donkey to its owner. He rests for a day or two in Bethany, enjoys the company of Simon the Leper and His best friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and prepares Himself for the days ahead.
All the while, though, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders, they were entertaining themselves with plots to get rid of Jesus once and for all. They “wanted him dead. But they couldn’t kill him in the open. No, the people liked him too much. And their public image was fragile enough as it was. Jesus had seen to that. The temple-cleansing. The parables. The shrewd evasion of every verbal trap they could drum up. They needed a way to pounce on him in private. And it had to be quick. He was (to be in) Jerusalem, so the time was ripe. But Passover was in two days. Two days. What would they do?”1
The answer came to them, of course, on what’s now called Spy Wednesday. Judas the spy, he spied a way to betray Jesus and make a quick buck at the same time, selling Jesus out to the chief priests. Judas huffed his way the two miles back into Jerusalem, found the schemers, and a price was agreed upon, the infamous 30 pieces of silver, the apparent price for the life of the Son of the living God.
Judas, of course, didn’t make out real well. Even today, we barely say his name. Only 14 boys were named Judas in the United States last year; that’s only six more than were named Lucifer.2 We don’t like to be reminded of Judas, because Judas committed every sin ever wrapped into one, not only betraying Jesus but betraying Him for personal gain. All the more, we don’t like to be reminded of Judas because he just did what we do all the time, just on a bigger scale.
Judas, of course, was just part of what was a pretty rough week for Jesus, but again, God’s grace is all over it; Jesus, knowing that getting from point A to point B was not going to be pleasant, spent all the time He had left on earth teaching His disciples, telling them to love one another, instituting for them and for us the Eucharist, giving us an example of service and humility and wisdom and again, love, the kind of love that gives up its own life for the lives of others.
Jesus’ teaching and example gave the world a great man to look up to, but the thing is, none of it would have mattered if He hadn’t been raised from the dead. You see, we didn’t need another great man then, and we don’t need another one now; rather what we needed then and need now and need for all time is a Savior who could and would not only die for us, but rise for us; who could and would conquer death, and do it not only for us but even for Judas.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most radical thing to happen in the history of creation, and it happened so that every betrayal may be forgiven, every broken heart made whole, that the lost may be found and the dead raised. God’s grace is all over it and all over us, and that makes for a very happy Easter.
1Jonathon Bowers, Mutiny Against the Messiah: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/mutiny-against-the-messiah