In our scripture reading this past Sunday, Jesus asked some of his disciples to “go and make preparations” for the Passover feast. We don’t know what all they had to do, but I imagine they had to buy bread, wine, lamb meat and bitter herbs. They had to set the table and sweep the floors. And I’m sure they got all the details in order and were physically prepared for the night. But I wonder…were they spiritually prepared for what was about to happen?
When they all sat down to share that ritual dinner together, Jesus broke the bread and shared the cup but surprised them with new words: “This is my body” and “this is my blood.” The events that followed–his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection–seem to have come as a total surprise to his disciples.
For the past forty days, we have been in a season of “preparation” for Good Friday and Easter. In this season of Lent, some of you have practiced self-denial by giving up certain things or foods or habits. Some have taken on new practices like centering prayer or a Lenten prayer group. And the whole point behind it all has been to get ourselves ready, to acknowledge our own sin and brokenness and to prepare ourselves to receive God’s amazing grace at Easter.
As much as we try to prepare, though, I wonder if we are more like the disciples than we want to admit. Jesus had told them several times that he was going to be arrested and crucified and after three days would rise again, but they hadn’t been paying attention. They were still not ready. It still came as a surprise.
Honestly, I find their lack of awareness oddly comforting. Even though I’ve had forty days to prepare for Good Friday and Easter, I’m still not ready. Like those disciples preparing the Passover meal, I’m physically prepared. We’re working on bulletins and logistics, and I’m studying for the Easter sermon. We’ve talked through details of signage and parking for the crowds who will come on Sunday morning. But am I spiritually ready? Probably not. After all, what can we possibly do to get ready for the life-changing mystery and power of Easter morning?
One thing we can do is to give ourselves over to this story. We can show up on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday–even if we screech into the parking lot after a full and crazy day–and allow ourselves to be present with Christ. Then show up again on Easter morning and see what happens. Remember, the disciples were not at all prepared for what happened all those years ago. They were just there, and God did the rest. They were totally surprised.
As we gather together this weekend, on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, may we, too, find ourselves totally, mysteriously, powerfully and amazingly surprised!