Reflection 040520 (Palm/ Passion Sunday) April 5, 2020
Matthew 21:1-11/ Psalm 31:9-16/ Matthew chapters 26-27
Darkest Before the Dawn
We are going through Lent and Easter in social isolation and fear of the pandemic. As I read the stories of Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem and of his fear, suffering, and death, I feel closer to him than ever. I feel like, thanks to the life of Jesus, God can understand our fears and sufferings. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was greeted with excitement and enthusiasm. The crowd had hopes for him as the powerful saviour of God’s people. When he didn’t turn out to be the political saviour for whom they had been hoping, they turned on him. It led to the arrest, suffering, and death of Jesus. However, those dark times were not the end of the story. The disciples thought they had lost when Jesus died, but wait to see what God does in the end…
This year, I am reading the Lent and Easter scripture readings through our current situation going through the biggest pandemic we have experienced. Things look bleak. This virus is spreading at a scary rate. Look at what’s happening in Italy; it seems like the end of the world. We are all either sick from the virus, dying from it, or scared that it might hit us too. I wonder if Jesus felt similarly as he was getting betrayed and being sentenced to death. Probably, he had a lot worse than us. At least, we are safe at home. And I heard medical professionals say that things would get worse before they get better. We know the saying that it is the darkest before the dawn. This is the message we are hearing from God as we wait for Easter this year in the midst of a pandemic. We are going through dark and scary times, but God who had never forsaken Jesus in his times of darkness will also be with us in our fear and physical isolation. Our suffering is not over, and it is likely to last for quite a while; but even in our darkest hours, God is with us. We are never alone. God brought Jesus back from the dead and out of the tomb. It is the darkest before the dawn. We are patiently waiting for that dawn that is promised to us.
Jesus pleaded with God in fear. He cried out to God on the cross in his great agony, body and soul. It’s okay to cry out in our fear and suffering. In fact, we SHOULD cry out to God. Unload your burdens in your prayers. Then we can confess, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand.” (Psalm 31:14-15a)
Dark times are opportunities to show the best versions of us. After Jesus was arrested, most of his followers fled and scattered out of fear. They abandoned their teacher in his darkest hours. Some women were loyal and brave, though. They kept near Jesus and followed him to where he was executed. During the darkness of World War II and Nazi Europe, seemingly ordinary people became heroes by saving God’s beloved people from persecution and/ or sacrificing themselves for others. We also face a choice in our current darkness. Will we be careless and risk transmitting the virus? Will we be selfish and hoard the toilet paper and hand sanitizer like a lot of people are doing right now? Or will we think of others, pray for them, and help them in their times of need, even though it is our times of need too? It is time to test the power of God’s Spirit in us; let God’s Spirit turn our minds and spirits to sharing God’s love with other.
This coming week, the Holy Week, let us read the story of Jesus’ suffering and death through the eyes of our current situation. And in the darkness, I pray that we will all hear God’s comforting voice, the hope of resurrection.