It’s Holy Week. This is the most formative week for Christians in the church calendar. We fast, pray, mourn and rejoice as we remember the incredible atoning sacrifice of Christ.
This year things look different because of a global pandemic. We’re not physically gathering as a church body and that hurts. Most of us are working from home or have lost jobs, and we’re distancing ourselves from all social contact. Some days are scary, some days are borderline normal, but most days just feel slow and different. Altogether, we’re longing to be delivered from this struggle.
Many have observed the timeliness of this longing coinciding with Holy Week. I appreciate that and do see some value there, but I want to be careful not to forget the purpose of remembrance. We are charged to “remember these things” so we don’t forget to give glory where glory is due. Jesus delivered us once and for all. That deliverance withstands all earthly turmoil.
We mustn’t only long deeply for the proverbial Sunday (Sunday is coming!) because we hope to be delivered. We anchor our deep longing in the solace of our Jesus and his sacrifice (Sunday already came!). Hallelujah.
Brief summary of Holy Week:
Below I paraphrase and tell the story in my own words. Please reference the gospels for a full biblical picture of this week. Reading my words may be helpful, but your personal interaction with the text is most important for understanding and clarity. You’ll find the gospel accounts here: Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19:28-24, John 12-21.
- Palm Sunday
- Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the crowd shouts, Hosanna!
- Holy Monday
- And so it begins. Jesus cleanses the temple by confronting the moneychangers and flips their tables. He begins to teach and curses a fig tree.
- Holy Tuesday
- Jesus again enters the temple, and a crowd gathers to hear Him teach. The religious leaders see this as an opportunity to trap Jesus, so they question him to usurp His authority. They soon realize they need to stop asking questions. The fig tree decays.
- Spy Wednesday
- Mary anoints Jesus with expensive burial oil, which angers Judas. He plans his betrayal as the Sanhedrin plot behind closed doors.
- Maundy Thursday
- Jesus spends time teaching his disciples and praying. He appeals to the Father on behalf of his church, as our Priest. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. Judas departs. Jesus and the eleven go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
- Good Friday
- Jesus is betrayed, accused, beaten beyond recognition, mocked, and sent to die – death on a cross. He cries out to Eloi (God) while he drinks the cup before him. He is forsaken, for our sake. The darkness of sin is swallowed up in the goodness of God.
- Holy Saturday
- The tomb is sealed. Jesus Christ has died, and descended to the dead. Jesus was made like us in every way through death – except His body would not decay in the earth. It wouldn’t be there long.
- Easter Sunday
- The women head to the tomb. A few disciples came later. They didn’t find Jesus, but they found a stone rolled away and an angelic messenger. “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth? He’s not here! He is risen!” (Mark 16:6, paraphrased). Our debt was paid in full and we share in Christ’s triumphant joy.
Already, but not yet
This time that we’re living in? It’s the already, but not yet.
Christ already made atonement for us. We were born inheriting Adam’s sin, but the second (better) Adam imparted us a new inheritance: eternal life in union with Him.
This is the already.
Although we are justified through Christ and live by the Spirit, we are still in bodies of flesh. The world around us is not yet made new. We struggle with sin and are hurt by things like divorce, death, illness, and pandemics. Yet we are promised a day when Christ returns to restore it all, in His time.
This is the not yet.
We are not mere nomads, drifting along and searching for rescue. We have it. We savor it. We rejoice and remember. In our reflection of this Holy Week, may we remember the debt we did not pay and the victory we did not deserve, yet were graciously given.
Thanks be to God.