For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3.16-18


And so now we come to it, the end of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week: Palm Sunday. This is the day on which the rest of the world celebrated the arrival of the Messiah, while he went willingly to suffer and to die. Never has there been a more dramatic irony: he knew what we did not, that we were celebrating the wrong thing, and celebrating the right one eight days too early and for the wrong reasons. We thought he had come to triumph over the occupying powers of a foreign military. We thought that he had come to set things right with the Temple and with the religious institutions and their cults. We thought that he had come to rule. But he had come for none of these. Not like that. Not yet. He had come to die. A lamb walking willingly to the slaughter. Isaac led knowingly to the stone on Mt. Moriah. He was the suffering servant from Isaiah, come to carry our sorrows, come to bear our wounds, born of a virgin and dying as one too. He was the perfect sacrifice, and we lauded him as he slouched toward Jerusalem to finish his mission to conquer the evil around and within us.


I wonder if we get that now, in the way he would have liked for us to get it then. I wonder if we truly understand his sacrifice and the ortho-paradox nature of his ministry: Whoever will lose his life will find it; he who lays down his life will keep it; the last shall be first; whoever asks for your cloak, give him your tunic as well. Now, after forty days of soul-searching and spirit-scouring, after forty days of repentance and prayer, self-denial and watchfulness, I wonder if we understand just why he came and just what he’s about to endure because of his great love for the world.


I visited an elderly man in a nursing home who was kept alive on oxygen. He had to wear a mask that fed air into his lungs to breathe. But whenever his youngest grandson came to see him, the boy would grab the mask and put it on his own face, giggling. To the boy it was something to play with. To the old man it was life. I often wonder what happened later when the boy grew up and discovered that the thing that gave him joy caused his grandfather distress. At that time, though, the boy only saw his grandfather’s glad tears, happy to see the boy smile.


Such is love: Jesus Christ gave up his life for us, and so we ought to give up our lives for one another.


And God held in his hand

a small globe. Look, he said.

The son looked. Far off,

as through water, he saw

a scorched land of fierce

color. The light burned

there; crusted buildings

cast their shadows: a bright

serpent, a river

uncoiled itself, radiant

with slime.

On a bare

hill a bare tree saddened

the sky. Many people

held out their thin arms

to it, as though waiting

for a vanished April

to return to its crossed

boughs. The son watched

them. Let me go there, he said.

– R.S. Thomas


This post is from Seasons of Christian Spirituality.