I often forget to celebrate Holy Week. Sometimes this is for amazing reasons–like a visiting friend who brings me so much joy. Sometimes this is for dumb reasons–like being anxious about the future and how to make hard decisions. And I think God is patient with me, understanding my distractions, waiting for me to realize the gift He’s given the Church in walking through Holy Week year after year after year.
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Christ as humble King, entering the city not on a military horse but on a plodding donkey. At my church, we walked down the aisle with palm branches, laid them on the alter, and took Communion from our elders. We were encouraged to symbolically lay down something along with the palm branch, and I gave up control. Or rather, for one moment I gave up control, hoping that God would honor that fleeting moment of trust and see my heart that is scared and doubtful but so desperate to lean on Him. Then I took the bread and the wine, looking back at what Jesus did for the world so that I can look forward to what He will do when He returns. In all this, Christ is King. He is in control.
On Maundy Thursday, we learn about community. We eat together, wash each other’s feet, talk about the important themes of life–what is meaningful? Why do we keep going? How do we relate to each other and to God? Thursday is the last deep breath before plunging into the weekend of hell…and of heaven.
On Good Friday, the most oxymoronically named day of the year, we watch our hopes crumble. The King who entered the city on Palm Sunday suddenly looks a little too humble. He is beaten. He is mocked. He is killed. The man who claimed to be the Son of God, the resurrection and the life, the man who brought miracles and a new way to view life–he turns out to be a fraud. He saved others, but He could not save Himself. We watch, desperately hoping that something will change, that He will bring His power and smite those who hurt Him, that He will not die. Instead, He cries out in agony and stops breathing.
On Saturday, we sit with pain. Life is confusing and full of disappointments. We thought Jesus was the one who would bring redemption and restoration, and He is dead. Similarly, we think of our hopes for family, for meaning, for purpose. We think of our dreams and how far too often they have fallen to pieces. We think of the friends who have betrayed us. We think of the humiliations we have suffered. We allow ourselves to feel the pain, and we wait.
AND THEN THERE IS SUNDAY. On Sunday, the pain is turned to hope. On Sunday, life returns from death. On Sunday, Jesus pulls off His graveclothes and steps from a tomb into the sunrise. The King who humbled Himself to the point of death reveals His power, not in killing those who hurt Him, but in refusing to stay dead. On Sunday, we remember that although our dreams die, new dreams arise. We know that life is messy and painful, but it is also joyful and surprising and delightful. We hear the voice of Jesus calling our name, giving us purpose, and we stand in wonder at how amazing the world turns out to be. On Sunday, we remember that Jesus came once before to show us that He had power over death, and we look forward to the day when He will come again to bring that first display to full fruition. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Holy Week allows us to experience the full range of life’s mysterious and confusing and wonderful emotions. We see Jesus as King, conquered and conquering. We lose our hope and find it. We look back so that we can look forward.
Wherever you are this Holy Week, whether in the pain of lost hope or in the blossoming joy of new hope, there is space for you.