How do you live when you know what’s coming? Jesus might have asked himself that question when the crowds were shouting “Hosanna!” and making a big deal of the fact that he was riding into town on a donkey. The Gospel of Mark tells the story well.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.
Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
— Mark 11:8-11 New International Version
So how do you live when you know what’s coming? Jesus went to the temple as was his custom and then set off to Bethany with his disciples. He knew what was coming, yet he did nothing very earth shattering. He sent his disciples into the city to prepare for for the Passover meal they would share. They ate the meal together, Jesus told then they would all desert him, and each one declared that they would never do such a thing.
They did. But life went on as life does. The Gospel then continues the sorrow-filled story as Jesus goes on with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane.
. . . And Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.
And said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.”
And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.
He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”
So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.
— Mark 14:33-46 New Internation Versioned
So now life is earth shattering for Jesus. How do you live when you know what’s coming?
Right now in deep Lent, this is a question we probably should ask. I don’t know about you, but as for me, I know what’s coming, at least some of what’s coming. There’s aging and illness, separation from children and grandchildren, the inevitable loss of loved ones, waning energy and more loss of independence. It happens to persons of a certain age. What’s coming for me includes things that are not so positive.So how do I live when I know what’s coming?
The preacher in me wants to offer a religious platitude that minimizes the troubling reality and lifts up abiding hope. The preacher in me wants to proclaim with a great deal of passion that all will be well. The preacher in me wants to declare that whatever happens to me, God will be glorified.
How do I live when I know what’s coming?
Right smack dab through the middle of it! Living strong in the face of fear. Holding tightly to hope. Summoning my inner courage. Standing steady through the winds of change, depending on the inner resilience that has always sustained me. That’s how I live in the days I have left in this world.
But, by the way, there really is a religious word that upholds and sustains me. The preacher in me is still alive and well, so I can proclaim with great certainty the comforting truth I find in my favorite passage of scripture
You have searched me, O God,
and you know me. You know whenI sit down and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways . .
You hem me in behind and before, you protect me, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful, too lofty for me to comprehend.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall your hand guide me and your right hand will hold me fast.
— Psalm 139:1-10 New International Version (paraphrased)
With that sacred promise and with the strength that has grown in me over many years, I really do know how to live when I know what’s coming. Thanks be to God.