In the week leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, we see Jesus go through the five stages of grief.
DEPRESSION – Immediately following the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, Scripture says, “Jesus wept” (Luke 19:41). He wept over the people of Jerusalem because a life of peace was standing right in front of them, and they couldn’t see it.
ANGER – After having a good cry, Jesus throws a fit. He curses a fig tree for not having any figs, and then goes into the temple and starts throwing tables. Some opportunists had seized the captive audience and attempted to sell animals for sacrifices. But Jesus wasn’t having it. The temple was supposed to be a place to pray, not a place to profit.
DENIAL – Overnight, Jesus goes from crying and table throwing to teaching in the temple as if nothing ever happened. He preaches that the Kingdom of God is at hand. He tells parables that are hard to understand, reminds people to pay their taxes, and talks about loving God and our neighbors as ourselves. He is business as usual with no indication that His body will soon be nailed to a cross.
BARGAINING – In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tries to talk His way out of the impossible task that God had set before Him. He tells the disciples to stay awake and pray so that they may avoid temptation. What temptation? The temptation to abandon Him, betray Him, and reject Him. If they could stand up to the temptation, then maybe Jesus wouldn’t end up with a crown of thorns around His head.
Jesus also attempts to negotiate with God: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). “If you are willing”… if you are willing to give me any other task, I’ll do it willingly; if you are willing to show mercy and grace, I’ll never bring up the whole nailed to a cross thing; if you are willing to take this cup and wash it clean, I’ll dry; I’ll live and forgive and be even more perfect than I’ve already been. “If you are willing”…
ACCEPTANCE – “yet not my will, but yours be done.”
The final stage of grief is acceptance. Jesus knew that this was His assignment.
This was His responsibility. This is what He had spent His whole life preparing for. There was no going back. There was only going forward, to Golgotha, to the cross, to the grave, to the throne.
When we look at Jesus, going through the five stages of grief, we can take comfort in the knowledge that, if it was healthy and necessary and good for Him, it’s healthy and necessary and good for us.
Grief not only helps us come to terms with reality, but also prepares us for the new life that is to come.
I can’t imagine anyone reading this escaped the pandemic unscathed. It’s a nearly perfect chance that there is something that happened in 2020 that you need to grieve.
You lost a loved one, a job, or your home. Maybe you lost your sense of safety, security, hope, faith, even love.
Perhaps what you lost wasn’t directly related to the pandemic, but it was affected by the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19.
You gave birth to your first child, with no visitors allowed. Your plans for adoption did not go through, and your support system wasn’t there to hug you through it. You missed prom, graduation, birthdays, Easter, Christmas, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, the list goes on and on.
Whatever you lost, let Jesus be your example. He grieved, so you can grieve too. In fact, you must grieve in order to enter the new life waiting for you.
There is a resurrection life waiting for all of us on the other side of the pandemic, and it’s just five steps of grief away…
Katie Ubry-Terrell is a member of the Religious Society of Friends/Quakers and serves as Coordinator for the Wilmington Yearly Meeting.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.