This is the time to step up.
If this story were a movie, it certainly starts out with a happy scene! I mean, a parade of triumph into the city, people whistling and shouting, “hip hip hurray”, “two four six eight, who do we appreciate?””Let’s go Jesus….let’s go Jesus!”.
But you know what? If this were a movie, the ending would never sell. Most people want a happy ending when they go to the movies. They go to escape reality, not walk out of the theater at the end, crying over a fictional character’s final misery.
This week’s story has no happy ending. You have to go to the sequel for that.
But what if this story—the story of a man who is hailed as a king and hosanna-ed by everyone—what if there was no final misery at the end? What if the party continued thoughout the week, without all the treachery and betrayal? What if Pontius Pilate listened to his wife’s dream about the ‘so-called king’ and decided not to arrest him? Or what if some of Jesus’ friends persuaded Judas not to betray the man? Or what if at the last minute the crowd shouted out his name instead of Barrabas as the one who should be pardoned and excused from torture and crucifixion unto death? What if there were no Last Supper, no agony in the garden, no scourging, no mock crowning with thorns, no carrying of the cross, no nailing to the wood of a tree, no last words to the other criminals and to his best friend and to his mother, no final breath taken as his blood dripped onto the dry sand beneath his feet? What if the party continued, the good times just rolled on, what if he just continued to teach, and heal and make miracles for the rest of his life, what if he just died of old age with a wife and kids and grandkids, and they buried him in a magnificent tomb? What if it was a movie happy ending for him?
Well, for one thing, we probably wouldn’t be here in this place, we probably wouldn’t know each other, probably something much worse: we might not even be. For that matter, the whole world might not even be anymore—humankind and all its animals and its astonishing forests and grasslands and oceans and mountains and its blue blue sky. There’s a good chance if there had been a happy ending to this week, long ago we would have had a catastrophic war that wiped all of it and all of us off the face of the earth.
A happy ending for him, but a tragic one for everything and everyone else. What I’m saying is, it is a paradox.
We want a happy ending, but to have a real happy ending we need his story to go to hell, literally.
What would our world be now if this week didn’t have backstabbing betrayal, wholesale self-interest and self-protection and shameful cowardice on the part of so many people? What would our world be like now if this week wasn’t defined by people like you and I who were afraid to lose their status, their comfort, their hard-earned property, their security, their privileges and their protections?
To really follow that man meant that your rights, privileges and entitlements would be threatened. To really follow that man meant becoming a rebel, a radical, a revolutionary, a traitor to nation and to religion, a terrorist armed with ideas that could overturn the way things are and have always been. To really follow that man meant in all probability you would lose it all—your house, your car, your job, your family, your friends, your dignity, and your life. And like us right now, there were very few back then who were willing to put it all on the line for him.
You get what I’m saying, right?
If it happened today, right now, we’d be the first ones to abandon and betray him. Let’s be honest. We’re all addicts for the short-term happy ending. Give up our money, our comforts, our dignity, our popularity, our stuff…give up our life for him? You think you would do that, really? I’m embarrassed to say, I don’t think I would. I want to keep living in the happy here and now.
But my brothers and sisters, we are blessed because there was no happy ending at the end of the week for him. Despite the fact he was all alone at the end, no crowds, no hip hip hoorays, just spit and blood and tears and sweat on his face, because in fact he endured it all alone, we are able to live our lives with the promise of a real happy ending.
This is the time to step up. This is the time to put ourselves on the line. There is no escaping the truth of what is to come if we truly want to participate in the beautiful story he has created for us now and forever. It starts with this week of his Passion, but it does not end there.
May we walk with him this week, and in the passionate months and years to come. Come Sunday, may we give up our addictions for short-term happy endings, and commit to bring the real happy ending to the world in Him.