— By JOHN CARTER
One of my favorite gospel songs proclaims: “There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth; It sounds like music in my ear, the sweetest name on earth. O, how I love Jesus, O, how I love Jesus ...”
On this Palm Sunday as we re-enact Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with our palm leaves and shouts of “Hosanna,” we might well sing “O, How I Love Jesus” with great feeling and meaning. It captures our mood of adoration at the beginning of Holy Week.
But as we move from Palm Sunday toward Good Friday, our mood will change. Our hope for Jesus’ coronation will be replaced by the dark reality of his impending passion. His approaching execution will bring our parade to a violent halt. Before we can properly celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, we will be forced to partake in his death. The cross changes the question.
In “Markings,” Dag Hammarskjöld pictures Jesus in Gethsemane, knowing all too well what was to come later that night and the next day. Observing his sleeping disciples, who only hours before had pledged their unwavering loyalty, Jesus ponders:
Soon, now, the torches, the kiss:
Soon the gray of dawn
In the Judgment Hall.
What will their love help there?
There, the question is only
If I love them.
Although we may talk and sing about our faith and love for Jesus, the question that Holy Week asks is not whether we love Jesus, but whether he loves us.
As we witness Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane and watch his lifeless body being taken down from the cross, we receive our answer. The last line of the hymn focuses the Easter-light where it belongs: “O, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me” – and not just me but the whole world, too!
Thanks be to God!