How often have I found myself in the place of the disciples in today’s Gospel reading, where they do not understand Jesus when He foretells His death for the third time: “He will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again” (Luke 18:34). How often have I lost sight of the final parts of our Lenten journey, when Jesus is stripped, scourged, mocked, crucified, and killed. How often have I forgotten that Jesus allows Himself to be put to death – and that He knows far in advance the horrors He would face during His Passion. I wonder what it was like for the apostles to hear Jesus say that the Son of Man would be flogged and killed, and then rise again on the third day. Could they not have connected the dots: that Jesus was talking about Himself? Was the message of resurrection inconceivable? Or did Jesus’ disciples see Him as invincible, unchangeable, and impervious to death?
In Book IV of his Confessions, St Augustine grieves the death of a friend who dies when they are young adults. Augustine admits, “I had loved [him] as though he would never die” (Confessions IV.11). In this passage, Augustine conveys the shock of his friend’s sudden and tragic early death. His words also point to a truth that strikes my heart: he loved his friend as though he would never change. Augustine loved an image of his friend: a static image that did not provide room for the changing, dynamic, and mortal nature of his dearest childhood friend. Who in our lives might we love an image of–our image of–rather than their whole self? Do I love an image of Christ, or do I love Christ? Do I love Christ as though He never really died and rose again, as though He is not inviting us to die and rise with Him?
The Lenten journey, for me, is dynamic: at times hopeful, at others sorrowful, and often both at once. I wonder how the apostles felt as they neared Jerusalem. Perhaps they suspected that Jesus was in danger, that something awful was about to happen. Perhaps they could peak behind that danger and see an abundant, mysterious hope. I do believe they must have expected that something was about to happen in Jerusalem–something they (and we) may only be prepared for with God’s grace, as we walk with Him to Jerusalem this week.
TJ Dulac is a junior in Currier House at Harvard studying Comparative Religion