Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lent Day 38: Perplexed but protected

The whirlwind week swept Jesus and his disciples toward the unknown, untamed horrors of crucifixion. Jesus warned them, "I'm going to die. After three days I'll rise again."

Well, what could that mean? He'd raised a dead girl and said she was "asleep." He was likely "dead tired." (Not that we know they used that expression.) Besides, everyone died sooner or later. What on earth was he talking about? The disciples probably shrugged it off as another mysterious parable or saying. Jesus was sometimes hard to understand, after all.

The whole troop celebrated a feast together just before Passover and a few weird things happened. Judas stomped off into the night after Jesus talked to him. Jesus played the role of a servant and washed their stinky, dirty feet -- after a sharp rebuke to Peter, who wanted no part in humiliating his rabbi. And Jesus said something about bread as representing body, wine representing blood... whatever.

Life with Jesus can be perplexing. We think we understand what God wants. After all, the words we hear are spoken in our language and sound logical.

But it's sometimes hard to understand what is meant or what God expects us to be or do. We may go forward in "obedience," only to run into an impenetrable wall. We think we should wait, and miss an opportunity of a lifetime. We move from great success to utter failure, without any apparent change of direction on our part. What's going on?

We have no answer to that question. Sometimes we can see the point of the journey but other times, it remains veiled in a fog of unresolved experiences.

What we do know is that Jesus moved steadily, faithfully toward the death that would engulf him. He took his disciples with him, through the pain of his suffering, through the shock and grief of his brutal death, and through the quiet denial of loss. They only understood enough to live through each day and fall exhausted into bed each night.

Whatever faces us, God is not overtaken by surprise. We walk with him through the valley of the shadow of death. "I fear no evil there," said the songwriter, having been through war and peace, feast and famine. "Because you are with me, your rod and staff comfort me. You even prepare a feast for me when my enemies surround me."

In this Holy Week, on Maundy Thursday, take God's outstretched hand. He remembers what it is to suffer, to grieve, and to see those around us oblivious to our pain.

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