Several years ago, frustrated by the bunny and egg emphasis of Easter, I began exploring ways to make Passion Week fun and meaningful for our family. Since then, the week has became one of my favorite times of the year.
Stained glass window from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Downers Grove, Illinois
I love Palm Sunday. Watching the kids enter the sanctuary waving their palm branches and singing "Hosanna" always makes me cry. There is something profoundly moving seeing kids worship. During his sermon, our pastor asked, "what will your response be when God presents His King?" Just like when someone knocks on your door, you can choose to ignore them or open the door. But Jesus requires a response.
The Last Supper
This morning as I was reading Matthew's account of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, a verse I'm sure I've read dozens of times stood out to me. Judas has just led a group of armed men to Jesus and identified him with a kiss (vs. 49-50), and Jesus responds, "Friend, do what you came for." Friend!!!!
One of my greatest fears, to the point that it is often the subject of a recurring dream, is that those whom I trust the most and hold the most dear betray me. Thankfully, I have never been betrayed outside of my nightmares, and if the feelings in my dreams are anywhere close to reality, I never want to experience it. I usually wake up suddenly, adrenalin pumping, knot in the pit of my stomach, feeling undone and hopeless. So when I read Jesus address to Judas at the moment of betrayal, it stopped me short.
I suppose some could say in response that Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. That He wasn't surprised. That He because he was fully God, He still loved him. While those all may be true, He also was still fully human, and when a human is betrayed by a friend it hurts.
I did a little digging to see the meaning behind the word "friend" in this context. The definition is "a comrade, mate, partner; in kindly address; friend (my good friend)." Doesn't that one word embody what Jesus says to us? We go our own way, do our own thing, fail to stand up for Him when we should, and after all that and much more, He still calls us Friend. When we humbly come to Him, seeking forgiveness, He does not turn away in anger or hurt or spite. He receives with open arms, welcoming His good friend.
On this Good Friday, as I reflect on the work Jesus did on the cross, I am once again amazed that He calls me friend. That He willingly bore the pain and guilt of all my sin, just to be able to call me "friend" for eternity. I am without words.