It was the best of times it was the worst of times...
How many times have I used that phrase over the past year? Lots. We are always living in best of times/worst of times tension. Even now while we still enjoy tremendous best of times blessings we are experiencing worst of times challenges due to the Coronavirus and ongoing individual trials we all face.
In the Gospel of Luke only, we find the "travel narrative" that chronicles Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. It begins in Luke 9:51 where "as his days of being lifted up were coming to fulfillment Jesus resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem" and culminates in chapter 19 with his Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem where the people worshiped Jesus as their savior and king. As we explore this central section of Luke we find that Jesus and his disciples constantly experienced best of times/worst of times. Consider…
-Jesus denounces the Galilean cities for not embracing him/Jesus sends the 72 to go share the Good News of the Gospel. (9:51-10:37)
-The disciples ask Jesus how to pray/the Pharisees secretly plot to kill Jesus. (10:38-11:54)
-A lost prodigal son is found/a warning is given that few will follow. (15:1-16:31)
-A persistent widow faithfully prays/Jesus asks if the Son of Man will find faithful people when he comes. (17:1-18:8)
-A tax collector's humble cry for mercy/a Pharisees' stunning hypocrisy. (18:9-19:27)
A Triumphant Entry/bliss, peace, a perpetual season of best of times?
After a long, perplexing, best of times/worst of times journey on foot with Jesus, the disciples must have thought they had finally arrived to eternal best of times when they entered Jerusalem and Jesus was hailed as the savior of the Jews. But then…Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, and then he whips the moneychangers, and then his authority is questioned by the elders, and then he foretells the destruction of the Temple and the persecution of the people, and he predicts wars and pestilences, and then he gets really dark and warns that the stars are going to fall out of the sky, and then he curses a fig tree to death…and it spirals downhill from there as Jesus is betrayed and arrested and falsely accused…and you know the rest…
This is the kind of life we are promised when we walk closely with Jesus…we are promised best of times/worst of times from the point of our salvation until the commencement of our glorification. That is why Jesus said that the entrance gate to his kingdom is small and the road is narrow and that the cost of discipleship is to pick up our crosses and follow him.
So during this Holy Week, a Holy Week that is so different from any other we have experienced due to the Coronavirus, lament the worst of times, but know that on that first Holy Week, Jesus walked through the ultimate worst of times and conquered all of it for us and AS us (2 Cor 5:21, Gal 2:20-21). Because of his victory…we can endure these worst of times.