Happy Holy Week, friends!
Yesterday I woke up with the joy of the Lord, as if the morning sun himself was singing “Hosanna!” Before even making coffee, I was painting watercolor palm branches, as if they were a gift to my King. If John Milton can have muses transport his poem as a birthday gift to Jesus at the nativity, surely I can paint my way into this joyous parade, right? After all, Mark’s account (11:9-10) says,
And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
What would it look like if we, as the children of God on “this side of the cross,” if you will, shouted blessings to the coming kingdom?
As most rhetoric-loving wanna-be-theologians, I love the gospel of John. In the grand story of what we call “holy week,” it’s truly tipped off by the raising of Lazarus. If the disciple whom Jesus loved narrated the text this way, we should pay attention to its importance, right?
A couple years ago, I had the privilege of wandering around the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam with no one but myself and time. I stopped in front of his painting of the raising of Lazarus for a long time, dazzled by the piece. It brought tears to my eyes, for I knew what the Lord was saying. Perhaps I’ve mentioned this before, but there are two very consistent places in which the Lord speaks to me— in communal worship and in art museums. Remove your grave clothes, I heard him whisper. It was not the painted figures of Lazarus or the women that I focused on; it was the sun that held my attention. Christ was no where in the painting, but that sun seemed to represent my Lord.
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:43-44)
Though my heart focused on the sun, this painting doesn’t depict a story of resurrection nearly as strong as the painting by Rembrandt he meant to imitate. Lazarus was raised from death to life by the voice of Jesus, and my dear friends, so are we.
Having been raised to life, we shout in the joyous procession, announcing our King, Jesus the Lord. The Hebrews writer puts it this way in 12:1-2,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
As much as I enjoy impressionistic art, I really dig the Renaissance, more than any other style or period. Like ever. Below is a painting from the Early Renaissance, depicting the welcoming of Jesus into Jerusalem. His hand is raised in a way to spell out the Greek letters ΙΣ ΧΣ, meaning Jesus Christ. People before him are removing their cloaks and laying down branches on the ground. Behind him are the Pharisees, plotting the Lord’s death. You can almost hear them saying, “Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:19)
Indeed, the world has gone after him. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, my friends. Sin and shame, bitterness and anger— let us throw off all that hinder, removing the grave clothes of our past. Let us proclaim with great joy the coming kingdom of our Lord, the kingdom which we were commissioned to build, as we craft upon the temple foundation of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). The glory of Jesus coming into Jerusalem, fulfilling a prophecy laid before as foreshadowing in the grand narrative of redemption that my God has written, is nothing in comparison to the glory at the right hand of God, where he sits, along with us, as we are coheirs with Christ.
Live this holy week, my friends, with a mind so set on Christ, you can almost see the glory of God all around you, as your sit in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). Shout “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, blessed is the coming kingdom of the Christ!”