The End of the World As We Know It?
by Katie Borden
It sure feels like the end of the world is upon us sometimes, doesn’t it? Just in the past couple of weeks, we have experienced another heart-wrenching school shooting; terrifying tornadoes ripped through the middle of our country; the unprecedented indictment of a former president was announced; tensions and violence continue to escalate in Russia; and there are still people in the global South who are enduring perpetually abysmal living conditions while being quietly left out of our news cycles. For instance, Haiti is essentially being run by corrupt officials and violent gangs, with what seems like no hope for a return of governmental and societal stability. And after writing all of that, I still feel like I’m giving important news the shaft because there’s just not enough space to write down all of the cataclysmic current events in this small space.
With a news week like this, we wonder where the good news is anymore.
In this overwhelming moment, may I reintroduce you to Jesus?
The passage that we read today reminds me of the hope I have in Jesus in the midst of this life’s crises. Let me share with you why I find hope here, even—and maybe especially—in the midst of a text that warns of trials, tribulations, and suffering.
The text that we read today in the middle of this Holy Week 2023 is found in the Gospel of Matthew, situated between the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his death on the cross on Good Friday. In a sense, as we read this passage today, we can use our imagination to experience Jesus’ words being spoken in the middle of his Holy Week as he prepares to endure the cross. Jesus says these things about trials, tribulations, and the destruction of the Temple (which might have felt like the end of the world to the Jewish community) with the cross in full view. He knows the horrors of sin and evil in this world.
And he knows that he is about to do something about it. In fact, he had been doing something about it the whole time. His disciples just didn’t understand yet.
Perhaps that is true of us, too.
We want to live like there is no tragedy between the triumph of Palm Sunday and the triumph of Easter. We—rightly!—desire an end to suffering, sadness, and sin. But when tragedy happens—and it does in this world—we are left reeling if we do not have an unshakeable foundation for our hope. If the Jesus we worship is only a Jesus that experienced all the glory of the world and none of the suffering, a week like this one might send us reeling and careening into an existential despair. Much like his disciples on Holy Saturday, we might be left with a hopelessness as the one in whom we placed our hope seemingly fell short of triumph.
But Jesus, the true God and King, knew suffering. He was intimately acquainted with the griefs, despair, and horrors of this world. So when he tells us not to be deceived and not to fall away even though great suffering may befall us, we can believe that he knows—he knows—what he’s talking about. Jesus reminds his disciples—and us—in this passage that there will be challenges, griefs, and tragedies yet to come. But these things do not mean defeat. They are simply the precursor to the final fulfillment of the victory that has already been secured.
It gives me great hope that Jesus can speak of sufferings on his way to the cross. Because he knows what lies on the other side of death.
Friends, it seems bleak. Both this world and this week can be heavy. But hold on. The joy of Easter is coming.
Jesus, expand my view of who You are. Deepen my understanding of Your suffering, so that I might find an even deeper hope in what You have overcome through the power of Your resurrection. In the midst of the suffering of this world, grant me the power of Your Holy Spirit to strengthen me. Resurrect my hope as we look forward to the day when all is made right through You. Amen.