To the unaccustomed eye, the Christian way of describing the events of Holy Week might seem paradoxical, even backwards. The days Jesus eats his final meal and lies dead in a tomb are described as “Holy.” The day he is violently beaten, stripped, and nailed to a cross is deemed “Good.” What?!
While those of us who subscribe to Christianity view Jesus’s willingness to endure these pains and hardships as the very means to our salvation and renewal, his modus operandi is so other that we must continually wrestle with it and see what we can learn in our own lives.
For me, the personal lesson of the Passion, the takeaway that can pay dividends beyond the way I interact with theology and faith, is that difficult situations have the potential to elicit good outcomes.
There is a Taoist parable of a farmer whose only horse runs away. When his neighbors arrive to comfort him, saying, “How terrible!” he placidly replies, “Maybe, maybe not.”
Some time later, the horse returns, bringing with it two additional steeds. The farmer’s friends marvel at his good fortune, but he responds, “Maybe, maybe not.”
After several weeks, the farmer’s son is thrown from one of the new horses and badly injures himself. The neighbors sadly shake their heads and agree how regrettable the whole affair is. “Maybe, maybe not,” the farmer answers.
Soon, a war begins, and people throughout the land are drafted into the military. Because of his injury, the farmer’s son is spared. “What extraordinary luck!” exclaim the farmer’s friends. “Maybe, maybe not,” says the farmer.
And so it goes.
There can come a point in life when we recognize some similarities in everything we do and in everything that happens to us, good or bad. First, individual events are part of a broader canvas that, when seen from afar, might take on new context and meaning. Furthermore, a situation that at first seems horrible may in the long run be beneficial and even providential. Finally, while we are able to enjoy pleasant times, we also have the capacity to endure trying ones with a measure of serenity, even detachment and, as Christians might add, with the help of God’s grace.
Whatever personal trials we are going through this Holy Week, we can remember that tribulation often prompts insight, wild horses sometimes lead to safe sons, and death calls forth redemption.