Varied? Tumultuous? Intense?
If I were one of Jesus’ disciples, how might I describe my own emotions over the course of this amazing week? I imagine I would have felt euphoric on Palm Sunday. Then utter bafflement when Jesus cleansed the Temple and cursed the fig tree. I might have felt righteous and even a bit gleeful when Jesus criticized the Pharisees using the strong word “woe.” I hope I would have felt compassion when Jesus lamented over Jerusalem. Would I have been outraged by Judas’s betrayal of Jesus? Humbled by Jesus washing my feet?
What powerful emotions would I have felt on Good Friday and Holy Saturday and Easter?
We use the term “Holy Week” to describe the days from Palm Sunday to Easter. One-third of the text of the four Gospels describes those eight days. In congregations we talk quite a bit about the major events of Holy Week, such as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his evening with the disciples right before his betrayal when he washed their feet and prayed for them, his prayer in the Garden of Gesthemane, his crucifixion and resurrection.
Many Christians are probably not aware that a lot of other fascinating, challenging and even perplexing events happened during Holy Week. In addition to the cleansing of the temple, the cursing of the fig tree, and Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem, which I mentioned above, during Holy Week Jesus talked quite a bit about the final judgment, and he disputed with the Pharisees several times. Many of Jesus’ parables are situated in Holy Week, including the parables of the two sons, the wicked tenants, the great supper, the good and wicked servants, the ten virgins, and the talents.
I am quite certain the disciples experienced an astonishing array of intense emotions in the midst of these events. When I became a committed Christian at age 19, I discovered a wealth of varied emotions in the Bible. This was significant to me because I was raised in a family where expressing intense emotions was seriously frowned upon. Jeremiah became one of my favorite books of the Bible because of his volatile ups and downs. I could identify with him and his passionate prayers (check out Jeremiah 12:1-4, 15:15-18, and 20:7-18). The Psalms became my friends, because they taught me to bring my emotions – good, bad, negative, positive – to God in prayer. The events of Holy Week provide another opportunity to feel a range of varied and powerful emotions and to ponder what exactly we are called to do in response to them.
I’ve walked a long winding road toward learning to accept my emotions, bring them to God in prayer and perhaps even use them for good. I’ve learned that very little work toward social justice is done without anger about the effects of injustice. Very little effective ministry is done without a deep passion for the things of God.
This week, as you journey with Jesus to the cross, allow yourself to feel the variety of emotions that are appropriate in the midst of the tumultuous, bewildering and powerful events of the week. This Jesus, who redeems us, lived in a human body and felt human emotions. Our faith is embodied, and bodies involve emotions. What does it look like for us to embrace and listen to our emotions, while serving and loving God our Creator and Redeemer?