Growing up in church, I was raised with Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday traditions. They were more than traditions for some, to be sure, but traditions they were. Plays depicting how the crowds shouted “Hosanna! Hosanna!” as Jesus entered the city riding an ass. Actors illustrating for us the righteous anger of Christ when He saw the Temple had become a “Den of thieves” instead of a house of prayer for all nations, turning over the tables – cursing the temple system. The last supper, where Christ gave the mandate of Communion, of the Eucharist, commanding that we do so in remembrance of Him. Representations of King Jesus being beaten, mocked, and whipped. Crucified and buried. Rising again. Yet, somehow, with the repetitive nature of this, year in and year out, I found myself inoculated to these performances.
Holy Week. I’ve been in church for thirty years and am just now hearing that phrase. Holy week, from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. See, part of the reason why these performances were lost on me may have been because I was young, but it was also because we combined a week into a day or two. Don’t get me wrong, these plays were brilliantly done. They worked well with what they had. Yet, looking back, it was because we crammed Holy Week into a two hour play that Easter, as beautiful as it is, lost some of it’s splendor, because Good Friday lost some of its weight.
There was no pause in my life. As a Protestant church, and a non-denominational church, we didn’t celebrate Lent. Consequentially, we didn’t have that build up of anticipated redemption burning in our hearts for a month before Holy Week. We didn’t stop on Monday to consider Christ’s authority over our lives. We didn’t take Tuesday to reflect on how we try to justify our actions by using our own cleverness to escape God’s claim on our lives.
So, some of the solemness of Maundy Thursday was lost on me, even as I grew older. Because I never stopped on Wednesday of Holy Week to check my own heart and seek His will in the silence and meditate on Him.
I never put myself in the shoes of the disciples, watching their Teacher, Friend, and Savior carry His cross. The cross on which He would give up His life to atone for the sins of His enemies, justify the elect, and glorify the Father. I never envisioned myself helplessly standing there while I watched my one Hope being tortured and crucified and breathing His last breath. Watching hope fade with the night.
But, I see that, now. I see the blackness of Good Friday when I think about the 336 Million abortions committed in China over the past 40 years. I see it when I remember my brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries being persecuted for confessing the Lordship of Christ. I see it when I see America slowly shoot itself in the foot by turning away from that which is good and right.
Now, I live in this perpetual Holy Saturday, longing to see the redemptive work of God completed. Longing to see the “Already” meet the “Not Yet.” Eagerly anticipating the Light and brightness and glory that burst forth from the tomb Easter morning. The Light that blinds and binds the darkness. The Light that fulfills the promised hope by showing the world the risen Messiah. The beauty and splendor of King Jesus shining in radiant glory.
But unlike the disciples, there isn’t always this sense of confusion about what to do next. Yes, it’s there sometimes. But while we miss some of the darkness of Good Friday by knowing the end of the story, we can look back and say “He is risen!” and know that no matter how black Friday gets, that Christ’s light will shine through again on Sunday.