Lent, Day 35: Being aware.

Today’s reading: Mark 10:32-34

They were on the road to Jerusalem–as, in a way, are we.

Over these 2000+ years of church history, this springtime journey toward Easter has become “Lent,” a familiar observance to many Christian traditions, while more or less unknown to others (including the one in which I was raised). Many churches plan special Lenten services throughout the season, and gather several times during Holy Week–the week between Palm Sunday and Easter–as a way to walk mindfully toward the cross and toward the empty tomb, following the steps and stops of Jesus and his disciples. Next week, I hope to incorporate into my Holy Week blogging some specific suggestions for a personal observance of the Easter journey.

There’s a temptation, no doubt, to skip over to the “good parts version” of Easter: Jesus’s reconciling action on the cross, and the miracle of resurrection… the crux (literally) of the story. We may be inclined to “sing the wondrous story,” and we surely will–but we must first walk the way. We must first be actively aware of the whole story, and take our part in it.

Jesus is leading the way to Jerusalem, followed by his awestruck apostles, and a parade of fearful followers. I can understand the apostles’ astonishment, but why were the following crowds afraid? They’re on a pilgrimmage they don’t, can’t, understand; they know he feeds, and heals, and teaches, and restores life… but they also know he has offended the authorities and broken numerous long-standing laws. They may not have been given the cheat sheet for what was to happen, but they know that something’s got to give. And he knows it too.

He has told his closest disciples this story before, but now that they have truly set their course for Jerusalem, he gathers them close once again and tells them, in clear and concise terms, where this path is taking them. They can’t skip to the good parts. It is going to be painful, and they have to be there for it. It is going to bring out their best and their worst–their very most human selves. And that’s necessary, because it’s those most human selves–and ours–that are redeemed by Jesus’ victory over death.

It’s important that we, too, follow Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. We can’t skip to the good parts–because the whole story is gospel, the “good news.” The teachings, the healings, the restorations, the dissent and the holy law-breaking, the feeding hungry bellies… all good news. The hosannahs of Palm Sunday. The anointing, the washing of feet, the supper. The soldiers. The temple veil. The centurion. The stone. The sunrise.

All great good news.

So as we join the crowd following the Messiah on this last journey, let us express our astonishment, and let us lay our fears at his feet. Let us hear again the wondrous story–the whole story–that is his calling and our salvation. Let us be aware of each faithful step we take with Christ, so we can truly celebrate the Easter miracle: that with him, we too are raised, to walk together in newness of life.

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