It’s Holy Week: a time where we intentionally meditate on those moments leading up to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Many churches will meet for Maundy Thursday and again for Good Friday before the big celebration on Easter Sunday. Yet it’s too easy to get lost in what these days truly mean as we simply go through the motions.
Let’s take a moment to slow down and walk with Jesus through the day leading up to His crucifixion as explained by Matthew. As we move through the text, we’ll see how Christ, in walking with us on earth, chose to lose everything, to become completely separated from this world, so that we would no longer be separated from God.
Journey to the Cross
The process of losing everything begins at Jesus’ last supper. There, amidst His disciples, he predicts the coming betrayal. The betrayal of Judas begins with the state of his heart, long before he actually hands Jesus over to be arrested. This was just the beginning of loss that Jesus would face in the coming hours.
Jesus knows that once He is taken, His flock will stray and Peter will deny his relationship to Christ. Just as He loses their support, He will also lose their companionship. When He is overwhelmed with sorrow and needs to pray, his friends fall asleep numerous times before He gives up on them; they don’t have His back when He needs them most.
In that moment He loses hope. Jesus is no longer hopeful that His disciples will remain with Him to help Him bear this burden. He is no longer hopeful that God might take away this cup. The hour has come and he steps forward, alone, to face the betrayal of Judas as expressed through a kiss: the kiss of a friendship that no longer exists.
As Jesus is handed over to be tried, He loses His freedom. Up until this moment He’s been able to travel, to preach, to build relationships and share God’s love. Now he’s been given up, handed over, and He finds himself powerless. He goes with His captors without a fight. As He is taken to be tried, the chief priests of the Sanhedrin are looking for the accusations of the people. They wait for the perfect piece of false evidence to convict Jesus of blasphemy and thus He will lose His reputation.
When Pilate gives the public a vote for who to release from jail, no one supports Jesus; He has completely lost the popular vote. Instead there is a unanimous vote to release a violent criminal rather than Jesus the Messiah. Jesus becomes mere entertainment. There is no grasp of His humanity, no sympathy for what He faces. Instead, He is stripped, dressed up as a “king,” whipped, spit on, and mocked. Once that finally became boring, they begin the journey to where Jesus will be crucified.
The steps leading up to the cross must have felt like a lifetime to Jesus. Finally He is crucified and waits for to lose His life. Still, they continue to mock Him – even one of the robbers hanging on a cross nearby. He is given foul wine, His clothes are divided, and He receives constant insult. Finally in the 9th hour He senses the end coming near, but this does not come as a relief. He cries out, “My Father, My Father, why have you forsaken me?” Feeling this complete loss of even God Himself, Jesus gives up His spirit.
Remember His Humanity
Can you imagine the final moment, knowing that Judas will betray you but still holding onto hope that he might change his mind? Can you imagine the pain of an act of love revealing an act of greed? Can you imagine the questioning: Am I only worth 30 pieces of silver? Can you imagine watching your disciples flee, leaving you truly alone in the hands of your enemies?
And at the same time, can you imagine His heart, reaching out to those who hold Him and wishing that they would know the God of Love? Can you imagine how He wrestled as He walked willingly to His death for the very ones who would kill him slow and painfully?
No Longer Separated
Jesus became separated from everything so that we would no longer be separated from God. As Christ rose, He gave us a personal relationship with Himself. He gave us life so that we may live and die for Him. Now He lives through us, transforming us, and calling us to reconciles to this world just as He reconciled us to Himself.
As we meditated on what Christ went through for us, we can also recognize what our neighbor needs from us. These things are crucial to our humanity and to our relational nature: loyalty, community, companionship, hope, freedom, support, reputation, dignity, and life. Reach out with the very things that Christ Himself lost on His way to the cross.