Of Palm Branches and Tribunals
Victory in Defeat
(Another piece of reflection)
Today is Palm Sunday. As we were waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna”, I could see myself as one of Jesus’ entourage.
As the colt slowly pranced through the streets, the crowds shouted “Hosanna”, and we exchanged knowing glances. At last, He was receiving the public acclaim we all knew He deserved. Suddenly the hardships of the journeyings of the last three years seemed worth it.
This was big, really big, bigger than those times He fed huge crowds with a few loaves and fishes; bigger than the lame man who walked; bigger than casting demons out of man at Gadarenes; bigger than stopping the storm. Even walking on water paled in our eyes as we watched the crowds joyfully giving Jesus the worship due Him.
And being the person I am, I, of course began making plans. With a crowd this size we’d have to find a place from which to address these people and others who would follow. Too bad it would probably have to be outside the city. Something about the city lent an ambience of power and glory difficult to achieve in the countryside. After all, we had had large crowds in the countryside before. But now, in
We could barely control our glee. I could see it in the eyes of the others. Each wanted to get back to his village or neighborhood, knowing they would have heard about this.
Validation at last. “Yes, I’m with Jesus. I’m one of His people.” And they’d ask for special front row seats.
Our elation lasted for only a few days. You know the rest of the story.
By Friday night words and phrases used to describe the action include: seized, betrayed, spit in his face, struck with fists, slapped, buffeted, smote, scourged and crucify.
We were devastated.
So devastated that our stalwart, Peter, denied even knowing Him. Most of us either left or hid in the shadows, hoping against hope that no one would recognize us. We were ambivalent about Jesus seeing us. We wanted him to know we were still there but at the same time, we couldn’t escape the guilty knowledge that, like Peter, by hiding we were also betraying Him.
Fear won the day. We remained in the shadows, afraid, yet hoping that at some point he would demonstrate His power. If He could still the rage of the storm, couldn’t He disperse these Roman soldiers and rampaging rioters? It should be small potatoes for Him. But no, the trial process wore on through the night.
And you know the story. The crucifixion came next. And then in the midst of our despair, we remembered: He said that he’d rise again after three days. Was this what He was talking about?
We still didn’t get it. All of us gathered in small groups to wait and see what would happen, wondering if the Romans would knock on the door and take us off to an equally gruesome fate. Or, would the unthinkable happen? Did He really mean He would come back from the dead? As in crucified?
As in crucified?
And then word came. He had spoken to two of us on the road to Emaus. Then He had appeared to the eleven. And He left instructions. We were to wait in
Today, we look at the events leading to the resurrection and understand clearly, without the crucifixion there would have been no resurrection. However, it’s much more difficult to apply to one’s own situation.
Never was that question more on my mind than the weekend that Victor died.
We first met Victor in at 2 am when he arrived on our doorstep in
Our little boys loved to play soccer with Victor. He had been a soccer prodigy in
When we left
Thus, Victor came to join our household. Since his English was very limited, he decided to stay in
Then, Victor was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma. That dreaded “C-word”: liver cancer.
Treatment after treatment failed. Gradually Victor’s condition worsened until it became obvious that the only way Victor would live was to have a living donor donate a portion of liver. After discussion with my family, and a great deal of soul searching, I volunteered. They turned me down. I was overweight, too old and not a relative. Nevertheless, I continued to pray about the matter, even tried uselessly to lose weight. Then a relative of Victor’s volunteered. Ironically, I lost 25 pounds without trying; his family member began testing to evaluate suitability. In a few months she was considered unsuitable. In my new slimmer condition, I called to volunteer again.
Throughout the entire process, I felt that I was led by God. His guidance was clear to me. Losing 25 pounds was a monumental event for me; I’ve struggled with weight control since I had children. During that time I had been praying daily for Victor, that a suitable donor would be found. It was no surprise to me that that donor was to be me. I believed it was divine guidance.
December 29, 2005 they removed two-thirds of my liver and replaced what was left of Victor’s liver. In the next three months I recovered, although at a slower pace than I had anticipated. Victor’s condition steadily worsened. The transplanted liver was viable and showed signs of growth, but from the beginning he developed an infection in one of the bile ducts. It never was fully healed and eventually Victor died of liver failure. It was February 22, 2006.
And I was left wondering if I’d heard the voice of God at all.
I still have no answers. I do still believe it was divinely ordained that I donate my liver, although it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, believed it should. Unlike the disciples who received an answer after a few short weeks when the Holy Spirit descended on their gathering, I’m still waiting for the illumination of what God was up to. Today, however, I’m willing to rest in the knowledge that God knows what he is doing, that if God is in it there is victory no matter how it looks at the moment. This peace hasn’t come easily; I still have that drive to know why, what God intends, but I’m willing to wait for divine revelation. As long as it takes. In the meantime, I’ll rest in the knowledge that the final Victory is God’s and this is all part of the picture.
God's victory even in apparent defeat.