Holy Week begins next week for Western Christianity. It starts with Palm Sunday and the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, leads to suffer and death by crucifixion, and finally ends with resurrection on Easter Sunday.
It’s quite a week. The emotional roller coaster that a worshiper experiences in the span of one week can be many things. It can be exhausting for some people. It can be exhilarating for others. It can be contemplative. It can be motivational. Each person will deal with Holy Week differently.
For me, Holy Week is my favorite time of the year. Far better than Christmas, as far as I am concerned. Christmas often gets wrapped up in nostalgia and the gifts. But Easter is different. Easter hasn’t been consumed by the culture. Often the culture doesn’t know what to do with Easter. Yes, there is the Easter bunny and chocolate, but it doesn’t have the same grasp on the holiday that cultural christmas does.
Holy Week forces me to stand in the crowd and do some self-examination. I’m not Jesus in any of the stories. I’m an onlooker. Do I follow the herd? I stand and walk the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowd seems to think that this Jesus is going to overthrow Rome. Where is his army — they must be hiding in the hills of the surrounding countryside, ready for the order. Do I believe that too? When are the times when I wish Jesus was a mighty general ready to inflict justice on my enemies? When are the times I want Jesus to force people to be “good.” When are the times when I want revenge? When are the times that I want a strong leader to show up and make things right, the way I want them to be?
Then Jesus enters the Temple and flips the tables over and confronts the authorities. Why didn’t he go to the king’s domain instead? No it was the Temple. It was to cleanse the place. And I watch. And I wonder. When are the times I wish Jesus would cleanse the temples in our lives, in our nation, in our communities? When are the times when I wish Jesus would show up and rattle things? But do I dare wonder how Jesus flips the tables within me?
Jesus spends time with his closest friends and shares a meal with them. One will hand him over. When are the times that I scoff at spending time with people — when they are a hindrance? What if that time was the last time I would have with them? When are the times I hand Jesus over in the way I live or what I do?
Jesus is arrested and brought before Pilate for trial. He will be beaten and handed a cross. Then made to carry the cross to the place where he will be crucified. That is a heavy burden. When are the times I try to wash my hands of Jesus blood, like Pilate did? When are the times I yell “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” like the crowd? Who are the people I would yell this for? How am I adding an extra burden and weight onto the cross that Christ carries? When am I the one that is pounding a nail into Jesus hands and feet?
And then there is death. But death does not have the final say.
And finally, there is resurrection! Joyous resurrection. That which was dead is brought to life — renewed, restored, and transformed life. Oh how beautiful it is. All the assumptions about life are wiped away. Christ is raised. How does Christ raise himself within me? How does this transform my life? How does this move me forward from this point forward? The past has been crucified. Now there is a fresh start. There is new life. How is Jesus renewing my life and sending me out to proclaim this Good News to those around me. How is Jesus encountering people and changing their lives.
Holy Week is an opportunity to delve into the unordinary. To experience time differently — where everything slows down. Where we walk with Jesus through his Passion and Resurrection. In Holy Week, we experience God’s time and God’s plan. But we aren’t just bystanders. We are a part of the unfolding of the tragedy and joy. We bring it on, and at the same time, we experience it — especially the parts that are out of our control.
Holy Week is a time to look inward and outward. To see. To hear. To feel. To know. To change. To die. To be resurrected. And to share this Good News with those who have no idea — to those who think that it’s just another week. To those who live in darkness. Let the light of Christ shine bright during Holy Week.