Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday: "My soul is sorrowful even to death."

I love Holy Week, and I love Palm Sunday's readings. The Psalm and the Gospel reading for today both stir such love and gratitude in my heart and I don't quite know how to express it. Not only did Jesus take the weight of our sin and suffering on Himself, He took on our fear and our sense of aloneness and of being abandoned into His mind and heart.

Jesus' agony does not begin and end with the nails in his hands and feet; it begins with crippling fear the night before His trial. From the Last Supper, He tells His disciples His soul is weighed down with sorrow, "to the point of death," and He asks them to accompany Him to Gethsemene to pray.

In Gethsemene, He is so overcome with the anxiety of the whole of humanity He begins to sweat blood. Before He tasted the bitterness of vinegar from the cross, He tasted the bitterness of His friends' apathy as they slept through the most terrifying moments of His life, and the bitterness of betrayal at the hands of a friend.

Jesus knows how it feels to be forgotten and alone and stabbed in the back. He understands the worst of our anxiety and depression, not from observation, but from living through them with us. He carried our wounds not only in His body but in His mind, heart, and soul.

But even more touching is the fact that He takes into Himself the first-hand experience of feeling forgotten by God. He never begged the soldiers to stop beating Him; He never offered a defense of Himself at all. Even pushed to the limits of His flesh, He does not complain. But from the cross His internal misery presses Him to cry out: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

In an almost twisted way, there is cause for comfort in Christ's Passion. Our Lord not only died our death, He felt our pain to its fullest extent, even to the point that He felt cut off from His Father. How powerful that our Hope understands what it is to feel hopeless; how extraordinary that our Help understands what it is to feel helpless.

This is a God we can know for certain is not afraid or ashamed of our sinfulness, wretchedness, misery, or fear, because He carried the full weight of each in His own heart and on His own shoulders.

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