I’m writing in the evening of Palm Sunday. This morning in church we carried palm branches down the High Street, singing the praises of Jesus as we welcomed him to Wednesfield just as he was welcomed to Jerusalem. Then we stood (apart from two who fainted) for the reading of the Passion from Luke.
So these events are all high in my mind at the moment. And I’ve just been struck by Mark’s phrase in 14:33 – ‘Jesus began to be distressed and agitated.’ This isn’t something we’ve seen before. Jesus seems always to be collected and self-controlled. Not always calm, but I find it hard to think of him being ‘agitated’. But this is a human decision which he takes like any other person would. Knowing that he could run, disappear, he still chooses to do what is right, to complete his calling even against his own wishes. The coming hours will be terrible, and his wish that there were another way to achieve our salvation is real and compelling.
That’s why there’s one line I really dislike in one of my favourite hymns, ‘My song is love unknown’, which we sang this morning. The line is this,
Yet cheerful he to suffering goes, that he his foes from thence might free.
There is nothing cheerful in Jesus’ choice to go through with his suffering. Willing, loving, faithful – any of these words would do. Not cheerful. His distress and agitation are real: the Cross is real, and it will be enough to daunt any sane person, however holy and courageous.
Yet Jesus will go through with it, not cheerfully but willing and loving – for you and for me. That’s why this week is Holy.