Knowing the End of the Story

John 12:12-27

The last week of Jesus’ earthly life begins with eager expectation and joyful celebration. Enthusiastic, palm-waving, hosannas-singing crowds welcome Jesus to Jerusalem. The news of his raising Lazarus from death precede his arrival and his fame has grown. As crowds cheer, religious leaders grow troubled. The world has gone after him, they grumble (v. 19).

Reenacting the pageantry of Palm Sunday today seldom moves me to join the parade. Perhaps that’s because I’ve read the end of the story. The crowd celebrates the right person, but with misguided expectations. Their cheering hosannas will soon be replaced by angry jeers that demand, “Crucify him!” Their praises fail when they realize that the road Jesus takes leads to a cross rather than a throne. As the week unfolds, he makes clear that his invitation to follow him means accepting his way of sacrificial love. Many discover their expectations were misplaced. Identifying with Jesus involves a cost they are unwilling to pay.

As Holy Week begins, try to see yourself in the story. What role would you play? Enthusiastic follower? Skeptical observer? Would you be an inquiring Greek who wants to meet Jesus in person and understand him more clearly? Would you worry that Jesus’ way of life threatens your own, like the frustrated Pharisees? Would you be a reluctant disciple, keeping a safe distance from Jesus?

In this week of remembering, we ponder what the central event in the Gospel means for us. Amid honest reflection and soul-searching, we explore the abiding mystery of Jesus’ death. Yet we cannot shake the sense that this is the key not only to the meaning of Jesus’ life but also to our own.

Consider

When have you enthusiastically begun some new venture only to discover that it demanded more than you bargained for? What did you do?

Pray

God of grace, forgive me for wanting your blessing on my life as it is and for resisting your guidance that helps me to realize all I could become. Amen.

This post originally appeared in Volume 27.2 of Reflections.

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