Holy Week Reflections on Loss

Photo by Annie Spratt

It’s Holy Week again.

Once a year we reserve a week to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death as well as our own suffering and, eventually, death. It culminates on Good Friday, a day about losing. Followed by Saturday, a day of utter emptiness.

Don’t miss that.

Sometimes Christians reference Friday with words like “good,” “victory,” and “triumph,” and use descriptors for Jesus like “champion.” But really, this is the day we remember that Jesus lost everything. Everything. He became the lamb who was led to the slaughter.

It’s unthinkable.

Christians talk a lot about how God will never give up on us, but here we find Jesus reciting Psalm 22, “Why have you forsaken me?” That’s a hard one. We’ve heard the story of Jesus’ death so many times that we don’t always let ourselves feel the pain and absurdity of it

The night before in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), Jesus desperately prayed to God, asking God to make a different way than for Jesus to be crucified, but God did not give him another way than to lose his life.

Of course, Jesus invites us to come with him toward resurrection. But as Jesus learned in the garden, there is no way to get to resurrection without going through crucifixion. There is no way to new life other than through giving up, surrendering, and finally losing.

This gives us a better understanding of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

Apparently losing is a central part of following Jesus (tweet that).

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In the garden, Jesus prayed to God, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

And that’s it, really. God’s will was that Jesus would lose everything. And Jesus was willing to be obedient to that plan. It’s worth noticing, grieving, lamenting the darkness of a world that would shut Jesus out. And as we do, we hear the invitation echo in our own ears. Jesus’ “Follow me” isn’t about winning.

This is about loss.

Richard Rohr suggests:

When all of our idols are taken away, all our securities and defense mechanisms, we find out who we really are. We’re so little, so poor, so empty—and a shock to ourselves. But God takes away our shame, and we are eventually able to present ourselves to God poor and humble. Then we find out who we are and who God is for us. (1) 

Stay here for a while. Don’t rush to Sunday. Let the loss of Friday and the despair of Saturday have their place.

This week, you lose.


Not as I will, but as you will.

1. Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr, 130, day 140.


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