Holy Week: It’s a time of highs and lows for us Christians.
Think about it for just a moment. We start off with Palm Sunday, a celebration recounted in Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus is greeted as he enters Jerusalem as though he were an earthly king. People shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
That’s clearly a high point.
We then enter a darker, more serious time. In Luke 22:7-38, we read the account of the Last Supper, a meal in which Jesus gives us the basis for what we now call communion. It’s a somber time during which Jesus reminds the disciples that He must suffer. The 12 followers don’t understand, and they are deeply concerned when they learn that one of the people in this inner circle will betray their rabbi.
The Gospels go on to tell us about what can only be considered to be a kangaroo court in which Jesus is convicted. Matthew 27:32-56 provides an account of the crucifixion of Christ. It is this narrative that stirs emotion in me almost every time I read it. Anyone who has endured ridicule for any reason can identify with the mocking that Jesus takes on our behalf. Heck, even the guys being hung on crosses next to Him were poking fun at Him.
Verse 46 contains those most poignant of words: “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?”
When I think deeply about that question, the sobering answer is “me” or “us.”
When I teach confirmation class or work with relatively new Christians, I do my best to explain that the opening of the book of Genesis is about God’s great creation and about how mankind soiled it because of sin – basically making a choice to put something else above God. I go on to try to explain that the rest of the Bible is about God doing all He can while maintaining free will to reconcile mankind to the kind of relationship mankind had with Him back in Genesis Chapter 2.
Fast forward to Matthew 27:50, which says “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” In Jesus’ death, we were saved. What a remarkable, selfless act – and all meant to do what mankind couldn’t do. With his endurance of pain and then death, Jesus took on the weight of all of our sin and served as the sacrifice on our behalf. He atoned for our sin. He reconciled mankind to God, providing we are willing to take the smallest of steps necessary and believe in Jesus and seek out a relationship with God, our creator who loved us so much that He gave up his son, a part of himself.
For me. For us.
Luckily, we are coming to the highest of all points in this story. Luke Chapter 24 provides the account of women finding only two men in clothes that were blindingly white at the tomb. They ask the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
The women remember what Jesus had taught them. That must have been an exhilarating moment. From the depths of despair to the fulfillment of what must have seemed like an impossible promise. But now they had seen it with their own eyes.
Indeed, this Holy Week started with the high of Palm Sunday. We will hit our lowest point on Friday as we recall what Jesus endured for us. But we will celebrate our salvation on Easter Sunday. We will celebrate Christ reconciling us to God through His willingness to be mocked, beaten, broken and hung on a cross – perhaps one of the most excruciating forms of capital punishment ever invented by mankind.
Jesus showed all those years ago how much God loves us. Jesus showed how much He cared for us.
Many of us know John 3:16 by heart. My guess is for many of us, that’s the only verse we have memorized. But read it here now. Say it to yourself. But rather than rushing through it like we almost always do, read it slowly. Reflect on the words.
Understand anew what it means as we move toward Easter Sunday.