The darkness is gathering. Jesus is teaching and his words about the Pharisees are incendiary. It’s Tuesday of Holy Week and the cross looms ever nearer.
It’s like he knows what will happen, so he has nothing to lose. He doesn’t keep quiet, but speaks boldly.
“I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
Matthew 21:31, 32 NLT
His words make them angry and they plot against him. The disciples must have worried. They must have wondered. They must have wished he would just keep quiet. Or at least use a little bit of diplomacy when speaking to the priests and leaders.
But he didn’t. His time was short and he wouldn’t waste it on finessing the message to save the pride of those who wouldn’t listen anyway.
It makes my heart heavy. To know that he was speaking the truth and was going to have to die for it. I try to live this story – his birth, life, death and resurrection – every day of my life. It is that in which I put my hope and trust, that which lifts me up when I am weak and weary, that which teaches me how to live well. And yet, every year, when we reach this part of the story, when the cross looms close, my heart wishes that it could have been different. That somehow Jesus could have been spared this awful pain and death.
My heart aches because I know I have done things to put him on this path. Because I need a saviour. I am far from perfect and forgiveness is something I cannot live without.
Our Lenten journey grows short, and Jesus will not turn aside from the punishment that awaits him. He will not play it safe. He will go, bold and bloody to the death that gives us all new life.