Holy Week has begun. We’re in it. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, when Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, riding a donkey while people lay palm branches on the road ahead of him.
They praise him as a king. They shout, “Hosanna!” (John 12:13) which has the meaning of “Save!” like a football fan yelling “Go! Go!” as his favorite wide receiver runs toward the end zone.
Some observers knew more fully what this meant. It was more like saying to a soldier deployed to a dangerous war in a distant land: “Come back home safely. Win freedom. Be careful. Now, go.”
Jesus was not out for a Sunday leisure ride. He was riding into a bloody battle. He knew it would mean suffering and ultimately his death in order to accomplish the mission laid out by the Trinity: “Save!”
And Jesus also knew this. Many locals and pilgrims in the crowd that day were expecting him to deliver glorious rescue and relief from the Romans. This was their own self-designed version of “Save!”
Pay attention here, because now this is getting real. As in COVID-19 real. Read on, friends. The Bible lets us into Jesus’ mind as he’s approaching Jerusalem, and you’re going to learn something important.
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes … because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you’” (Luke 19:41,42,44).
Do you know? Do you know what will bring you peace? Or is Jesus now weeping over you, disappointed that you missed it. Missed. Him. Because you were looking for him somewhere outside of the current scene. As if COVID-19 is one zip code, where Jesus is not, and he is in another zip code.
“Save us, Jesus! Bring us to your zip code! Take us into your kingdom. Rescue us from COVID-19. Save!”
And Jesus sighs. And Jesus cries. And Jesus rides ahead anyway. Rides into COVID-19. Rides into the suffering. Rides humbly on a donkey. Lowly.
Not ashamed. Not confused. Not scared. Rides to you. Still eager to give you a chance to see him and know him and believe in him as the one who brings true, unconditional peace.
Not all suffering is something that Jesus wants to deliver you from. Sometimes—I’d suggest most of the time—Jesus wants to deliver you through suffering. Just like his cross (Matthew 16:24). Jesus wants it to shape you, stretch you, and strengthen you.
Jesus wants it to make you make difficult decisions that are better than ones you would have made without the pain or hardship or loss.
Jesus wants you to be overwhelmed and afraid, as you are clutching your securities of this world, so that you look at them, realize they can’t save, and cry out to Jesus in true relief, trust and peace, “Hosanna, Jesus!” Save me.
And within the suffering, right now, before its ultimate end, you have the peace you need. You have rescue and relief. Because God is in it.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, you are already delivering us from COVID-19. Just as you rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey to suffer and die, you have come into our suffering, our loss, our pain. Let the people of your world, by faith, see you in this. Shape us. Stretch us. Strengthen us. Hosanna, Jesus! Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: And then there’s this. Read Psalm 118:25,26.