HOLY WEEK 2023
It’s been interesting for me to watch how our perspective on Christian holidays has changed through the years. As Evangelicals we have celebrated the major events of our faith on those specific days set aside for them—like Christmas or Easter. But in recent years we’ve come to see more clearly how celebrating those events as part of a season is to appreciate the holy days more deeply! At Grace, many years ago now, we began setting aside the four Sundays before Christmas (known as Advent) as a way of preparing for Christmas. And in so doing, we began to see how important it is to take the time to fully embrace Christ’s coming—not only historically, but spiritually and futuristically. And so, with Lent. We began having Ash Wednesday services with other local churches and grew to really appreciate the season of preparation for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Holy Week is like that, in that it has its own season. So much happens in one week! From worshiping the coming King on Palm Sunday to worshiping the Risen King the following Sunday—but oh, what comes between the two Sundays! They are days of great upheaval!
The whole week is marked by contradictions. Jesus comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as King, but he ends the week on a cross as a hated criminal. He comes in peace but the very next day he hurls tables and throws merchants from the temple. He eats the Passover meal with his disciples and hours later weeps tears of blood as he sets his face toward Calvary. He comes as One who works miracles, having just raised Lazarus from death to life. But He ends the week nailed to a cross, seemingly without the power to save His own life.
He enters Jerusalem as One who is beautiful—that is everything about him is true, without blemish or flaw. One author has said, “Beauty will save the world,” and in that he spoke of the Christian soul inhabited by Christ. Yet Scripture tells us:
"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Isaiah 53:2-3
This is our Savior. He is our King. He is the Crucified One. He was punished so we could have peace. He was rejected so that we would be accepted. He became sin so that we would be free from its stain. He conquered death—so that we would spend all of eternity worshiping Him.
As we come to Good Friday, let's give Him time, let's give Him our full attention. And entering this day, acknowledge that this day is the day of our salvation. We could call this the first day of our salvation, except everything comes before this and everything follows this. It's a day like no other. Everything has led up to this moment. The Incarnation, the ministry, the commands of Jesus culminate in this one thing: He became sin, the one sinless holy man ever born, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
It's a day of great tension. It is both the worst day and the best day. It is a day of great sorrow and it's a day of jubilation. Can our souls hold this tension? It is a day of reckoning—and it's a day of invitation. A day of alarming darkness, oh but what a day of light. The Father turns His face from His beloved Son—and the Son turns His face to ours. It's no wonder that Jesus wept tears of blood in the garden. Can you imagine knowing that what you are about to do will remove from you the sweetest, most loving gaze of your heavenly Father?
It is a day of remembering. A day we might want to forget, because of the darkness. It is good that we remember our darkness, and our sin, not so we can feel bad about what Jesus had to do for us; but so, we can enter once again into the joy of our salvation, because even our awareness of our bondage to sin only comes to us through His grace. Today we take our place in His death (as on Sunday we will take our place in His rising! Alleluia!)
So today, let's lift our faces to the Cross:
…that there we may see God’s goodness, His wisdom, and His power. And yes, His mercy and His wrath. We see man’s sin there as well and yet his infinite value. There is our hope and our fear, our misery and our happiness. There we see Christ loving all the world, and God dying for mankind. There we see that He is the Rock of Comforts and the Fountain of Joys. His blood is a well of life that cleanses us purely and completely. He is the Lion and He is the Lamb, and that Lamb died to take away the sin of the world. (adapted from a quote by Thomas Traherne)
“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” is a quote attributed to Tony Campolo. But it came from a sermon preached by S.M. Lockridge, and his sermon is a reminder that all the darkness and grief of Good Friday gives way to Resurrection hope and Easter glory! We know that Good Friday is not good without the hope of the Resurrection, without the certainty of Easter. So even as you take part in the different parts of Holy Week, remember this: Christ has come, Christ has died, Christ is risen!
For the readings of the text for Holy Week – go to these Scriptures:
Palm Sunday – Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19
Cleansing of the temple: Matt. 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:13-37
The Passover feast: Matt. 26:17-19; Luke 22:7-13; Mark 14:12-16
Gethsemane: Matt. 26:30-46; Mark 14:26-42; Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion: Matt. 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-42; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-38