Sermons on YouTube…
Years ago, I was watching a documentary on the History Channel about the building of the Alaska-Canada Highway (or ALCAN as it came to be known.) The highway was cut quickly through rugged wilderness between Washington State and Alaska, through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. While the idea had apparently been around for decades, in 1942 the US and Canadian governments decided it was necessary for the defense of the West Coast.
And so this documentary described the herculean effort it took to build this road in a very short period of time. And they interviewed a few old-timers who had been construction workers.
At the very end, they were interviewing this guy in his 90s who had worked on the road, and they asked him to reflect on his experience. He talked about the difficulties and the hardships they all endured, as well as the sense of pride they all had in accomplishing this amazing feat. And his final words were: “I wouldn’t trade that experience in my life for anything, but you could never pay me enough to do it again!”
I’ve thought about those words over the years. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I’ve already had a number of experiences like that! Looking back, I treasure the experiences. But I also remember that those experiences involved difficulties and heartbreaks, and they often went on longer than I was expecting. Still, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. But sometimes I wonder whether I would have started down those paths if I had really known about the time, the heartbreak and the difficulties that I’d have to endure.
On Palm Sunday, I wonder the same thing about the disciples who followed Jesus. The disciples had been following Jesus for a while now, and they had endured some difficulties and challenges along the way. To be sure, Jesus had warned them that worse things were ahead. But whether they paid attention to those words or not, it’s hard to imagine that the disciples could really envision how bad things were about to get over the next few days as they entered Jerusalem in relative triumph.
If they had known – really known – would they have followed Jesus into Jerusalem? Would they have stayed? Would they have thought it was worth the effort?
Well, they did follow Jesus. And after Jesus’ crucifixion, they were stuck in Jerusalem for fear of their lives. But because of that, they became the first to experience the Resurrection. They had, arguably, the greatest experience in human history. But that experience came with great difficulties, with great pain, and it meant that their journey with Jesus was going to be going on for a lot longer than any of them had probably anticipated.
I wonder if, looking back, the disciples felt the same way as that old ALCAN construction worker – the journey to Jerusalem was the greatest experience of my life, but I don’t want to live through it again!
And yet, that whole experience – both the pain and the joy – taught the disciples some really important things about living in a deeper relationship with God. And they’re lessons we should think about as we embark on our journey with Jesus to the cross and empty tomb.
The journey through Jesus’ death and resurrection taught the disciples, and should teach us, that:
- Not knowing everything that’s about to happen is sometimes a gift…! (if we knew, we’d focus on the bad and never be able to see the incredible possibilities and experiences ahead…)
- Jesus is walking with us through whatever difficulties life is dishing out, and for as long as it takes… (this is what empowered the disciples to continue to follow AFTER the Resurrection…)
- No matter what pain and hardships we’re enduring, Jesus is always leading us to new life … (and this doesn’t make pain and hardship fun or good – it just gives us hope and strength to face the pain and hardships when they pop up again…)
Many of our life journeys come with uncertainty, pain and hardship. That’s just the way it is, and you don’t need me – or Jesus – to tell you that.
But this journey we take with Jesus every year into Jerusalem, to the cross and ultimately to the Resurrection is an important journey for us to take. For it’s through this annual journey that Jesus promises us that the one thing we can be sure of is that he’s going to be with us in whatever journey we take. It’s through this annual journey that we see that no matter how bad it gets, Jesus will still be there for us. And it’s by living through the pain of this annual journey, that Jesus shows us that there is always life and hope at the end of every journey we take.