There’s going to be an Easter egg hunt in our backyard on Sunday. Several of our neighbors are getting together and we’re all chipping in eggs and potluck side dishes. The kids are going to run through the front door loud and wild, as they do. The women will congregate around the kitchen chatting, as they do. The men will drink beer and push kids on the swing, as they do.
We all will celebrate in our mindless, habitual ways.
Soon, our backyard will have eggs hidden along the fence posts and underneath the patio furniture. The grass will be trim and groomed for celebration, ready for the padding of tiny barefoot feet. But for right now it’s a little overgrown. There are dandelions popping up in patches; coarse, uneven patches of grass; and I’m going to be honest with you: there’s a good amount of dog poo.
Mike said he was going to wait until Saturday to mow the yard, that way it will be really short and nice when guests come over.
So currently I’m envisioning a party from a backyard that, for now, looks distinctly un-ready. I’m looking at a list of chores still waiting to be done. I’m worrying that we’ll forget to buy ice for the coolers or that we’ll run out of food or that I’ll accidentally cook something that produces salmonella.
On Thursday I feel all the big emotions. I worry and plan and anticipate.
On Sunday, I will celebrate.
But for today I’m simply annoyed by the length of our grass.
In my reading of the final days of Jesus, it seems to me that there is a lot of restlessness that takes place in The Holy Week. Specifically on the Thursday before the weekend.
On Thursday, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in the upper room. “Do you understand what I’m doing?” he asked them (John 13:12). “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (vs. 16).
I’m not sure the disciples did understand. But I wonder if they pretended the opposite.
Jesus then told them he was physically leaving. He says he is going to prepare a place for them in heaven but also he was sending the Holy Spirit to make a home within them on Earth (John 14).
So basically God was leaving and coming at the same time.
Super straightforward, right?
And in his final words, Jesus talked in paradoxes and seeming contradictions:
- The world would hate his disciples, but also, impossibly, their joy would overflow (John 15).
- The Holy Spirit would come and illuminate sin, but also make righteousness available (John 16).
- And that Jesus wouldn’t be seen for a little while, but then he would be visible again.
I imagine the disciples on that Thursday were eager but confused, sort of uneasy. And often I feel like a disciple in that upper room. I see how dazzling and perfect Jesus is, but I’m also not quite sure what to do with him, what exactly to make of his promises or how to practically apply them.
On Thursday, the disciples strained to believe, but it all seemed so abstract, so crazy.
How could death lead to anything else?
Faith was hard then.
Just as it’s hard now, I think.
Every year I revisit this story. I read the tender details and try to hold them fresh and new. I see the gaps between the moment of the Gospel then and it’s application now.
For example, I recognize Jesus’ finished work: securing forgiveness, extending grace, and adopting us into his family. But in the midst, I see the unfinished bits of myself, where I’m imperfect and sort of anxious and unsure.
I see how I’m declared righteous before God, but still being made righteous from the inside out.
It’s not done yet, the part where I become exactly like Jesus.
For now, I’m still waiting to see him face-to-face, scars and all, to witness what I believe to be true proven resoundingly so. That probably won’t happen, at least not entirely, this side of heaven, so in the meantime I press into the tension. I live in uncomfortable expectation. I lean in to hear what Jesus has to say.
Just like the disciples did on that Thursday in the upper room.
In many ways, I think walking with Jesus now is like living on a Thursday and waiting for Sunday.
It’s a yard that’s a bit overgrown, a home that feels a little unkempt; a restless endurance of imperfection while knowing there’s something better yet to come.
But on Easter, we take heart because the Sunday that Jesus promised was the Sunday that ultimately came.
And here’s the other part that’s encouraging to me: Look at how patiently and lovingly Jesus walked with the disciples through Thursday (John 13-17). How he readied them for what was to come. How he modeled how to wash feet, how to serve. He promised that their lives would be fruitful if they would remain in His love. And he spoke often of the vastness of this love, as if that promise, that security, was the hinging point of everything else.
Thursday was important, see.
It was the prelude to what was coming on Sunday.