In the space between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, between the acclaiming of Jesus as a king and his execution as a threat to the political order, I was no more ready to read the news March 22. The stifling, exhausting repetition of violence and terrorism is both all too common but still shocking. And yet, I hope that Christians in particular can draw upon the narrative arc that moves us from Jesus’ triumphal entry to his seeming defeat on Calvary.
Death, we remember this week, is our constant companion.
And not just the death that takes us peacefully in our sleep after a live well lived, but the death that ensnares us when we least expect it, the death that is not the result of a heart debilitated by age but by hearts driven to hate and violence and hopelessness. The daily deaths that deprive us of our humanity, of our hopefulness.
When Jesus dies with all those unjustly executed by cruel systems — whether death comes at the hands of an imperial force or mere neglect — he dies with all, not just those whose plights draw our attention, our compassion, and the camera lenses of our media. The attacks on Belgium are tragic. The victims of such terrorism in Belgium are not alone. Jesus knows the sting of death. So do numerous other victims of violence and terrorism and war, victims whose names and faces we will never know because they don’t impinge upon our daily lives. But Jesus knows them. Jesus knows their pain.
And in Jesus, resurrection is a fulfilled promise. Resurrection is present and tangible and real.
I don’t mean by this some simple, saccharine sentiment. I don’t mean that Jesus makes everything okay. But our confession as Christians this week is that death has already been defeated, that death has no hold upon us, that resurrection is not just something we can experience in the future.
Resurrection is for today.
Imagine, then, if our reaction to these attacks would not be fear and self-interested protection. Imagine if we didn’t close our borders. Imagine if we didn’t view our Muslim neighbors with suspicion. Imagine if we didn’t give into our basest instincts to build bigger weapons. Imagine if we lived the resurrected life together.
Imagine instead if violence and terrorism would drive us to see and feel and heal the plight of our neighbors, near and far. Imagine if fear would drive us not to build bigger walls but to love those who are violence’s most frequent victims. Imagine if the resurrection were as real and as tangible as the images of destruction we see on our many screens.
This Easter weekend many churches will read Psalm 22, a psalm Jesus voices as he dies on the cross in Mark 15:34. The psalm moves from despair to praise, from praise to despair, again and again. The psalm does not land on either one for long, moving from cries of hopelessness to the unbridled praise of a loving God. That psalmic rhythm of praise and despair, despair and praise has lingered in my heart today. What does it mean to live in that space between hopefulness and a sober assessment of the world as it is today?
The psalm won’t answer that question completely, but it gestures toward an imagination more than a simple answer. Near the end of the psalm, we read, “The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!” (22:26).
Sit with that verse for a moment. Notice how despair and praise can drive us to the needs of our neighbors. As we grieve Jesus’ unjust death and celebrate his resurrection, as we grieve the unconscionable loss of life and the hope that God promises, may despair and praise together point us to those whom God calls our sisters and brothers, our kin.
In the space between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, between the acclaiming of Jesus as a king and his execution as a threat to the political order, may we discover a resurrection power that overwhelms our instincts to shelter ourselves, our fear of the stranger, our hopelessness in a broken world.
This article originally appeared at On Scripture.