20 June, 2024

March Madness, Sadness, and Gladness

by | 25 March, 2024 | 0 comments

By Doug Redford 

Fans of college basketball look forward every year to the month of March, knowing that “March Madness” awaits: the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. The madness refers to the excitement that the tournament generates every year, often featuring upsets and thrilling, “buzzer-beating” finishes.  

As we consider what we call “Passion Week” for Jesus, the week began with Palm Sunday, the day of Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. He entered the city with Passover just a few days away, amid a cheering crowd whose shouts of Hosanna must have been deafening. Madness? Yes, the crowds were mad about, wild about Jesus. John’s Gospel says that the Pharisees, Jesus’ staunchest opponents, were saying to one another, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19). Or so it must have seemed to them.  

As the week progressed, the madness took on another meaning. The religious leaders were mad at Jesus. Their hatred toward him grew as they watched Jesus’ popularity grow. Then came Judas with his offer of betrayal. The leaders gladly gave Judas 30 pieces of silver to carry out his act. 

At this point we move to sadness. After Jesus observed the Passover with his disciples and then established Communion as a new kind of memorial, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Judas led those who were to arrest Jesus and in just a few hours crucify him. We can’t imagine what it was like for people such as Jesus’ mother Mary to watch how he was treated. So many thought for certain he was the Messiah, the chosen one, and now this. Sadness beyond words. 

That sadness, however, was only temporary. The women who came to pay their respects to Jesus’ body heard the stunning words: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). What appeared to be unbearable sadness was transformed into indescribable gladness . . . the “inexpressible and glorious joy” of which Peter writes (1 Peter 1:8). 

Easter Sunday is the day set aside for celebrating Jesus’ victory over death. But we also do that every Lord’s Day whenever we take these symbols of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus said it: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). We remember his death, but we also remember that his death was not the period at the end of a sentence; it was just a comma, a pause, before something more—something far better. Let’s celebrate this year’s March Gladness: He is risen! 

Doug Redford has served in the preaching ministry, as an editor of adult Sunday school curriculum, and as a Bible college professor. Now retired, he continues to write and speak as opportunities come. 

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