There were two crowds of people which brought Jesus to this moment: One ushered him into Jerusalem, welcoming him as a deliverer. “Hosanna,” they said, and laid their coats down for his colt to walk over. The other crowd drove him out of Jerusalem with shouts of “Crucify him…” Do you think that some of the people were in both crowds?
Don’t we sometimes shout out for Jesus to save us, yet later show disregard for his life by the things we do?
Which crowd are you in?
How do we live with the realization that we are in both?
If we would like to have mercy and compassion for ourselves, can we extend it to Judas, the Romans, and the crowds? What about closer to home?
In her book “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers,” Anne Lamott writes that the three essential prayers are Help, Thanks, and Wow. I think she missed one, though. And this is a very common prayer. It goes like this: “Why…?”
“Why, God…? Just why…?”
You fill in the rest. I know you can. There’s not a soul alive who hasn’t prayed that one. Including Jesus.
Of all the lines of text we have this morning, the most powerful word on the page is that one, when Jesus says, “My God… Why?” (Matt 27:46)
After that, Jesus died.
He never found out why.
Maybe later, after he died, some angels or God told him why. But, in the moment, when it really mattered, he didn’t get an answer.
It doesn’t seem fair.
But, not all prayers are answered; not even for Jesus.
It’s the same for us too. But when we are praying that prayer, the “why?” prayer, we can know that we are not alone. God, in the ultimate act of solidarity with humanity, has joined us in all things: All the wondrous and profoundly unsettling things.
All we really have for Holy Week and beyond is the presence of a God who stands with us and who has prayed all the desperate, unanswered prayers that we too have prayed. He is there, hanging on a tree.
We want to rush past that part, the hanging on the tree part. After all, we know how the story ends; and we don’t want to think about our own unanswered prayers. But we have the gift of this week, seven days, when we can let our eyes and hearts linger on this image of God become so very human that he was both born and will now die with an unanswered prayer on his lips.
What about your own unanswered prayers? The “Why?” prayers that won’t go away?
There are no answers. But there is solidarity on the cross. That is enough.
Lindy McMillan lives in Shanghai, China
Image: “Matiaska krzyż “Salvator Mundi” 18.08.08 p” by Przykuta (talk) – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons