Reflections on Holy Week
I often find Holy Week a turmoil of emotions. It starts with the euphoria of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As the week progresses, there is a growing sense of dread. There is a sadness and confusion that permeates the Last Supper, followed by the horrors of the betrayal, scourging, and crucifixion on Good Friday. Two days later there is the shocking, unexpected, exuberance of the resurrection. Over the years, rereading the narratives of Holy Week have somehow dulled my sensitivities and emotions – it is just another story that is a cornerstone of our faith.
Tucked in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is Saturday – a day we have actually overlooked, not realizing that most of us live in the Saturdays of life. (Tweet this) Our theology has missed the importance of the darkness and disillusionment that the disciples experienced in the “in-between time”, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. (1)
On that first Good Friday the disciples had no knowledge that there was going to be an Easter Sunday. Their teacher, whom they had come to realize was God Himself, had died on the cross. With His death, the promises of a better world and of the Kingdom coming were shattered by the events at the Garden of Gethsemane and all that followed, culminating with the horrors and despair of the crucifixion. The darkness, the confusion, and the death of the dreams as they woke up on Saturday morning are hard to imagine and can only be understood by those who have faced a sudden, horrifying, and tragic death of a loved one. It was only later that they understood the meaning of the Cross as being the means of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God our Creator.
However, what unfolded on that Easter Sunday morning, would forever transform the disciples. The resurrection was so completely unexpected, stunning, and unbelievable. The realization that death had been conquered, that the dreams of a new world were not dead, that we are not trapped by our diseased and broken bodies, and that evil did not have to enslave people, sent a thrill through the disciples. The sense of desolation that the Saturday of the salvation narrative speaks so eloquently about through its silence, is not the end of the story. There is a resurrection, with God reappearing.
Yet, so much of our lives are lived in the Saturdays of the salvation narrative, when dreams, hopes and parts of our being may have died, when there is a sense of abandonment and of being alone. Unlike the disciples who did not know that there would be an Easter Sunday, we know that there is a future because of the resurrection. The promises of Easter Sunday for new life and a new beginning come into focus. One day in the social, economic, and political order of society there will be justice and peace – the promise of the Kingdom of God. We look forward to the day when, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11.15).
We know about the reality of the crucifixion and the resurrection because of the historical eyewitness records that the Bible contains. As you read again the story that unfolded during Holy Week, may you encounter the God who identifies Himself as Immanuel – God with us.
1 With due credit to Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, Douglas John Hall, The Cross in our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World and Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday.