The return address said “Your Friend Jesus.” I’d never heard from him this directly before, and my hand shook as I opened the envelope.
You are invited to join me
in a journey to the Holy Land
for an observance of
Holy Week .
I will knock.
I accepted, of course, overwhelmed by the honor.
When the knock came, I opened the door. Reverently. Before me stood the Lord himself, his hand reaching out to me.
“I’m ready!” I smiled.
“No one ever is,” he smiled back.
I looked around for the car, the tour bus, the shuttle.
“This journey,” he said, “is taken step by step.”
“Where are the others?” I asked.
“This journey,” he said, “is always taken alone. Except for me. It’s a simple journey. I lead. You follow.”
“We are going to the Holy Land?” I queried, looking about at the ordinary, familiar paths I had walked every day, year after year.
“There is no holier land than this,” he replied.
“But it is–an observance of Holy Week?” I hoped I hadn’t misunderstood.
“It is,” he answered. “Holy Week. We will begin here, with Palm Sunday.”
I looked where he indicated, ready to see a depiction of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Lord being welcomed with waving palm fronds, garlands of flowers, a joyous celebration.
“But that’s–me!” I said, recognizing the scene. “That’s just last week when they gave me that award at work and that great promotion! And then–there it is!–that very night I got engaged to the love of my life! What a day that was!”
“Ah, a memorable Palm Sunday.”
“Wait,” I said, a strange feeling rising in my throat. “Isn’t this about Holy Week? Your Holy Week?”
“Not mine.” I could tell the smile came from his heart. “Yours.”
I froze and grasped his arm. “Mine?” My voice was thin, for I knew my Bible. Am I–like–going to die soon? Is that what this is about?”
“Not the big death,” he said. “That will come later, First come the small deaths.”
“Deaths?” I heard a crack in my voice. “You said deaths–as in plural?”
“Several, perhaps many.”
“They won’t feel small at the time.”
I turned and looked back, wondering if it was too late to change my RSVP.
“There’s no going back,” he said gently. “I played out my Holy Week–not only to assure your resurrection from the big death–but to give you a pattern of resurrection from the small deaths. Your Holy Weeks will come. Your only choice is whether you experience them alone–or with me.”
My hand tightened on his arm. “Not alone,” I whispered.
“The next day we observe is Maundy Thursday.”
I could not lift my eyes. I remembered the events of that day. The Last Supper. The Garden of Gethsemane. The betrayal. The anguish.
“Look!” The Lord gently raised my gaze.
Scenes in a private garden. No apostles. No soldiers. No olive trees. Me. And betrayal.
“Cancer . . . the outcome uncertain . . . .”
“Downsizing . . . nothing personal . . . .”
“Divorce . . . .”
“Your child is in jail . . . .”
“Killed in combat . . . .”
Disappointment . . . discouragement . . . depression . . . loneliness . . . defeat . . . .
Alone in the garden with betrayal. I saw myself–alone on my knees, heart breaking, weeping. Weeping in the garden.
“All these?” I looked at the Lord in disbelief. “All these will come?”
“Betrayals will come,” he replied, “betrayals like these. You will kneel in your garden, and you will weep. You will not bleed, but, oh, you will weep.”
“You will be there?”
“You will not sleep?”
“I will not sleep.”
He took my hand and we walked on. “Good Friday,” he gestured.
I looked and saw myself, bowed down with a heavy weight. “Ah!” I said. “I am ashamed to bow under such small sorrow.”
“I was given my cross,” he said, “and you are given yours. Now hear. Surrender to the crushing weight. Your hands are tied, you are brought low, stripped of pride. When you fall, stand again. There is fatigue, there is defeat, but stand again. Loved ones along the way weep for you. Let them. Hands reach out to wipe your face. Let them. And let your words be words of forgiveness, for your betrayer knows not what he does.”
“You are with me still?”
“Every step, lifting, lifting the burden.”
“And then--I die?”
“Life as you knew it on Palm Sunday–is no more.”
“A heavy rock over the entry.”
“And now the darkness,” he said as we walked on. “Do not fight the darkness. Saturday of darkness is holy too.”
I looked. I was lying on my bed. So still, eyes closed, no will to rise.
“Rest,” he said. “Reflect. Wait. Trust the darkness.”
I waited. I watched my sad, still face on the bed. No lamp. No candle. So dark. So small and alone. I scoured the sky for a hint of morning.
“Easter will come,” he said. “Wait.”
We walked on. Through the darkness. Step by step. His arm around me.
A slice of light. Tiny. Another. Slowly as morning–ah, it was morning–becoming, slowly becoming. No moment to mark it, so slowly. The light–falling on my sad face on the bed–then coming from my face! My body rising from this small death. Sitting. Standing. Accepting the light. Becoming the light.
“I’ve never seen myself--look like that!” I murmured. “I’m more than I was before!”
“Ah, my friend--” I could hear sunrise in his voice--“this is the secret of Easter. Life after death--is always larger than life before death.”
“Resurrection.” I spoke the word in awe. Such freedom. A stone–rolled away.
“Observe the pattern,” he said. “Surrender. Carry your burden the best you can. Forgive. Trust the darkness. Especially–forgive. If you don’t, it can be a very long time until morning.”
“But however long it takes,” he said, “however painful your Friday, however dark your Saturday, I will be with you every moment–promising the celebration of Easter morning. For Holy Week I came into the world.”
We walked further down the path.
He led. I followed.