It is Holy Week at last, and boy do we need it. Holy Week does one thing better than any other event each year: It describes what hope looks like in the most desperate of times.
It is the perfect antidote to election-year despair, for several reasons.
- Jesus never drops out.
This year, the election looks to pit one side vying for who can please the abortion industry most, and on the other, a candidate who seems to have made a fortune out of lowest-common-denominator capitalism. We watch the race unfold with dread and disbelief.
What we see unfold in Holy Week is exponentially worse. The apostles’ political life was determined by brutal occupying rulers, and their religious life was set by leaders who rejected the Messiah. The lesson they had to learn was that Jesus doesn’t offer political deliverance but a steady, certain ultimate hope for all eternity.
That is true today. The best candidates all lose in the end: Even the greatest presidents have a mixed record and a limited time in office. The worst presidents’ damage is also temporary. The great lesson of Holy Week is that God’s love is the same yesterday, today and forever.
- Jesus wins despite the polls.
Election years heighten our tendency to worry about what “most people think.” We know that people’s uninformed positions count in an election year. They become policy changes, and policy changes really do matter.
If anyone shows how fickle public opinion is, it is Jesus during Holy Week. He polls very well on his entrance to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But then his approval ratings drop below even Barabbas’, a murderer. We can learn from him that public opinion polls don’t matter ultimately. God’s will has a way of working not through the will of the people but despite it.
- His Word remains even if our voice is drowned out.
Are the people of our nation rallying around ideas that will ultimately do them harm? Are they shouting down good principles and cheering on bad ones? Pay attention this week. They always have. The world could never stand what Jesus has to say — and he is the Word made flesh, through whom the very universe was created. No matter what we say or who we cheer, Jesus Christ remains the Way, the Truth and the Life; the gate; the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end.
Holy Week rehearses the way even the best of his time refused to listen to Jesus; how the Apostles didn’t understand his great offering on Holy Thursday; how his stirring words from the cross left the people flat at the time. They didn’t just reject him, they tortured and killed him. But in and through all that, his yes to the Father has resounded down the ages louder than our “Crucify him!” In fact …
- Watch our worst defeat become our greatest victory ever.
On Good Friday we will watch Jesus suffer the most complete defeat in the history of the world: the Second Person of Trinity as man will be spit on, slapped, dragged through the streets, killed, drained of blood, buried and locked in his tomb. But even sealing off his corpse couldn’t stop him.
This Saturday we will hear what happened next:
“Let this building shake with joy! … This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
“This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
“This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin.
“This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld. … O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!”
If that doesn’t give you heart in this year of the heart-breaking election, then nothing will. God has become man to die and rise for our sins. If that is true — and it is — then there is no call for despair.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.