Thought for the Week: 28th March 2021

Our thought this Sunday is by Rev Peter Sheasby

A week is a long time


“A week is a long time in politics” is a saying ascribed to Harold Wilson, Prime Minister in the 1960s. It was equally true for Boris Johnson a year ago, when in the space of a week he went from shaking hands and hoping the virus would go away to telling us all to “stay at home”. And what about Jesus? A week can be a long time in religion too. Between his triumphal arrival in Jerusalem one Sunday (Mark 11: 1 – 11), and his even more victorious resurrection from the dead a week later, so much happened that I doubt the disciples, let alone the gossip of the time, could keep up.

Palm Sunday, for all its importance, is a bit of a comedy, especially as Mark tells the story. It is all set up: the colt is waiting patiently to be found, the conversation goes exactly as they had been told, no-one seems to see the irony of the Messiah riding on a donkey. I’ve never written any horse, or donkey, and I think I would look very ungainly. The legs of anyone sitting on a donkey would almost touch the ground, so surely people would have laughed rather than applauded his heroism. But they would have known the prophecy, in Zechariah 9:9 (all the clues were there) here comes the one who is going to save them. What they didn’t know was that salvation would be from sin and death, not the rotten Romans or even the corrupt religious leaders of the day. Maybe that is where the seeds of Jesus’s end were sown. He doesn’t come as the conquering hero, riding to repel invaders. He comes as the gentle Saviour so well understood in that hymn of praise in Philippians 5, the obedient servant, emptying himself of all but love.

This year the Methodist District is providing a series of Holy Week meditations, with prayers and meditations written by my wife (Chris Sheasby) and Andrew Brown. Through the eyes of the witnesses to that momentous week’s events, they enable us to journey alongside Jesus and his disciples. Unlike in a whodunit we, of course, know the ending. The body will die and be raised again to new life. So we find it hard to make that journey with fresh eyes and ears, and so understand all that happens. When we share bread and wine, we cannot really place ourselves alongside the disciples who are fearful for their own lives if that awful betrayal happens. How can we celebrate with a man whose life is going to end so soon? It is shocking, that the crowd who one-day praise Jesus as their saviour end up shouting for him to be killed by crucifixion, one of the most horrendous, drawn-out deaths possible.

We are all living in hope at present: hope that the vaccine will do its job, that the restrictions will be eased, that life can return to some normality and we will be able to go on holiday, in this country if not abroad. We can only wait on events, and their effect on Government guidelines, to know what is going to happen next. Until then we have more important things to think about. This Holy Week we must travel again on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, and will experience those events again, in the light of our most recent faith journey with Jesus. We cannot move forward now without recognising and remembering the sadness and suffering the last year has brought to many people – through job losses, financial pressures, illness, bereavement and the trauma of all that has happened. Neither should we try and take a short cut, to arrive at the joy of Easter Day without witnessing the difficult episodes of betrayal and crucifixion. We too must have the mind of Christ and be obedient servants, through our worship, pastoral care and evangelism, to show people that faith in Jesus is the way to eternal life.