|Posted on April 7, 2020 at 11:55 AM|
Lately our attention has been focused on the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world as well as the “panic-demic” that is causing people to hoard toilet paper to save their own butt. Clearly our normal routines have been severely disrupted by the shutting down of our businesses and institutions. The resulting increase of financial and personal stress on families ordered to stay home and wait it out has put us all under a thick cloud of doom similar to what Jesus must have felt during the last week of his public ministry.
We refer to this week as “Holy Week”, but the forces at play during that time were anything but holy. While it started out with the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem (what we celebrate as Palm Sunday) and ended is his triumph over death, hell and the grave (what we celebrate as Easter Sunday), the days in between were filled with conflict, confusion, betrayal, rejection, and isolation. How Jesus handled the intense stress of that week is amazing and the record serves as a model for dealing with our own stressful situations. As the author of Hebrews encourages us, “…let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3)
The sequence of events that took place during that last week reveal several sources of stress building up over time. The intense conflict with the religious authorities beginning with the cleansing of the Temple and his daily teaching increased over the week with public confrontations and private conspiracies. The final preparation of his disciples for their ministry of loving others after he was gone was met with betrayal by one of his own and empty promises of loyalty. His agony in the garden as he bore our sorrow and griefs was so intense he sweat drops of blood. His false arrest and trial filled with slander and lies proved he was despised and rejected of men. In addition to the building personal stress Jesus endured he faced the intense physical stress of the cross.
The author of Hebrews tells us to focus our attention on the way Jesus endured the stress of the cross as our model. The key element of his endurance was “the joy that was set before him”. That joy or rejoicing is the supernatural hope produced by the Spirit of God during times of suffering and stress in all who believe. From his agony in the garden to his agony on the cross Jesus was empowered by the Spirit with a confident and joyful expectation of his own future (hope) to endure the stress. His faith expressed in his submission to the will of the Father as being the very best thing for him is what set that hope in his heart.
For those of us who are stressed out during this Holy Week because of the threat of the pandemic the hope we need to go on loving others like Jesus will come from the same Spirit that empowered Jesus producing hope in us. Believing who we are in Christ and submitting to the will of the Father in faith will fill us with the same joy that was set before Jesus. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 13)