Every day this week is holy for Christians

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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We are just days away from the most holy of days – Easter Sunday. But every day this week is holy. Christians should celebrate from Palm to Easter Sunday – and everything in between. Palm Sunday was celebrated in many churches Sunday to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Some 2,000 years ago, crowds of Jews laid out palm branches on roads into Jerusalem to welcome their “Messiah” – the conquering king who they believed would overthrow the Roman government and liberate them from its hostile occupation.

While many oppressed people today still desperately need this kind of physical deliverance, Jesus’ journey did not end there. Instead, his road to Jerusalem culminated in the Cross, which brought an entirely different kind of liberation.

An article by Christianity Today notes that Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ betrayal, death, and resurrection. It is a period from the ancient church calendar when Christians look forward to the victory of Easter Sunday with joyful anticipation.

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But it is also a time of great sorrow – marked by suffering, betrayal, and brokenness. And because of this, it speaks powerfully to those whose countries, relationships, or mental health situations are increasingly unstable. In a world desperately in need of hope, we cannot just brush past the anguish of Holy Week and move straight to the triumph of Easter.

The early days of Holy Week hint at the imminent doom.

The article defined Monday as Holy Monday, which marks the day Jesus cursed the fig tree for not producing fruit and then overturned the tables in the temple. On the next day, Holy Tuesday, the article shares that Jesus continued teaching in Jerusalem, challenging the religious leaders, and informing the disciples of his impending crucifixion. The infuriation displayed by the teachers of the law sets the stage for the next few days of Jesus’ life.

Holy Wednesday is an especially dark day, which refers to Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus. Judas’ duplicity would have been immensely painful for Jesus. He was not a detached observer on the periphery but one of Jesus’ core group of disciples – a close friend and traveling companion. This tragedy is deepened when Judas later regrets his decision to assist in Jesus’ death but is unable to reverse it, and so tragically chooses to end his own life.

Yet even in the darkest moments, there is hope. Jesus’ first words from the Cross were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps Jesus was assuring his friend (among others) that all was not lost – that no matter how deep our depravity, there is always the promise of transformation.

Some churches celebrate a Maundy Thursday meal together in a re-creation of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. There, through their eating and drinking, Jesus informed his followers that his body would be broken and that his blood would be shed – for them and for many. Elizabethton’s First United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church will have a joint Maundy Thursday service at First U-M Church.

Later that evening, in the Garden of Gethsemane, as his death grew closer and many abandoned him, Jesus’ sweat apparently fell like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). 

Friday is good because Easter Sunday is in sight. If Jesus indeed rose from the dead, then death does not have the final word. Good Friday may seem an inappropriate name for a day marked by bloodshed, suffering, and death. But the ostensibly bad achieves the good – as Jesus’ broken body on the cross becomes the source of humanity’s redemption. 

Yet in our attempt to rush from the horror of Good Friday to the joy of Easter Sunday, many of us neglect Holy Saturday, the final day of Holy Week.

Saturday is a good day to prepare for Easter Sunday. It should prompt us to take suffering seriously. It also assures us that we do not struggle alone. Throughout his life, Jesus suffered pain at every possible level: physical, psychological, and spiritual. While this by no means eliminates our own pain, the biblical picture shows us that whatever we encounter – whether physical sickness, mental health struggles, or spiritual doubt – Jesus has been there. He not only knows about the depths of human emotion, but he has also experienced them.

Then, Sunday comes…Resurrection morning. Churches all across the land will celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. Many churches will celebrate with sunrise services.

It is a great week, a week for Christians to be mindful of and celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Easter is more than bunny rabbits and colored eggs. It is life!