This is one of the most powerful weeks in Christian faith – the week known as “Holy Week,” the set of days that commemorate the final days of Jesus’s life, those that led up to his crucifixion and burial. Within a week of being ushered into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna!”, Jesus was condemned to die via public execution as an example to those who would disrupt the status quo. Of course, we understand that his death had tremendous significance: he was the sacrificial lamb, perfect and unblemished, wholly divine, whose death satisfied the demands of a just God who requires sacrifice to accompany our repentance of sin.
Yes, we always live as Easter people. That is, we live as people who believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, an event the Christian world will celebrate on Sunday. Christ proved his power over sin and death by rising to newness of life; therefore, we too have hope that this life is not the end of the story for those who believe in him.
Yes, we always live as Christmas people. That is, we live as people who celebrate the fact that God chose to become one of us, to live and dwell among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We have the comfort of knowing that God understands our human predicament, and he continues to dwell in and among us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
However, at least for this week, we must live as Good Friday people. We must remember the betrayal, trial, and torturous death experienced by our Lord. We must experience the spiritual darkness of Good Friday before celebrating the marvelous joy of Easter Sunday. Why?
I believe that if we do not fully experience the magnitude of this week’s events, then our message of the gospel becomes truncated. If our message to the world is only hope and peace and joy and victory, then that message will bounce right off of the pain-hardened shells in which people live. Yes, we have a message of hope – for ourselves as well as the world – but this is no mere feel-good message. This is a gospel which has tasted the bitterness of death, which has walked through the darkest valley, which has known the worst that the world has to offer.
Friends, allow the joy of this Sunday to come when it will come. In the meantime, contemplate the magnitude of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Walk with him through the Garden of Gethsemane, into the courts of Caiaphas and Pilate, and along the long road to the Hill of the Skull. And remember that these dark events have tremendous meaning for God’s relationship with you and with those around you.