One of the things that I love most about Holy Week is that I can experience the events of Scripture in my own life. I will walk alongside other pilgrims as we observe Jesus' betrayal, trial, crucifixion, death and finally, his resurrection. Each day, the story will play out before us as it is read and enacted through sacred traditions. For the duration of the week, I will get to live inside this ancient narrative. I will feel its gravity and learn anew its profound significance. Every year, I am offered another opportunity to encounter Jesus' immeasurable sacrifice—to be buried with Jesus and arise to fullness of life in Christ.
Join me in reflecting on these Scripture passages that walk us through the events of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Read them through the remainder of this week—to enhance your church experience or to learn about these biblical events and traditions for the first time.
During Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples he does something out of the ordinary. He ties a towel around his waist, pours water in a washbasin and begins washing his disciples' feet! This was the behavior of a servant—not an honored rabbi, Messiah or king. But Jesus sets an example for what it means to follow him. Rather than making ourselves greater than others, we serve them. We become Jesus' disciples through practicing humility and demonstrating sacrificial love.
Before giving the world the ultimate gift of sacrificial love, Jesus humbly served his most intimate friends. We too can demonstrate Jesus' love in small acts of service. This evening, many churches will give us an opportunity to wash one another's feet. Some churches will invite members of the homeless community. We will be given a hands-on way to become part of the story, bringing the written words to life and letting them transform us.
Tonight we observe the events of Jesus' death (read the full story in John 18 and 19). Following the Last Supper, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There Jesus' prophetic words come true. Judas—one of his twelve disciples—betrays him. Jesus is taken before the Jewish authorities and Roman government officials. He is arrested, tried and condemned. We watch as Jesus is insulted, mocked and beaten. Finally, he is crucified, nailed to a cross, left hanging between two criminals. Jesus' work is finished. He breathes his last.
Some churches will enact these scenes, reading the passages like a dramatic script. An actor will play Pilate and the congregation will respond as the angry mob, "Crucify him!" We will hear our own voices condemning Jesus to death, confronting us anew with the difficult realization that Jesus died for our sins as well. Like the crowd, we often turn away from God and fail to recognize Jesus in our midst. Like those who betrayed and denied Jesus, we also are in need of Jesus' sacrifice.
We leave Good Friday services in silence—the lights in our churches dimmed. The following hours are held in suspension. The trauma of last night is still fresh in our minds. We encounter the gravity of Jesus' death. Rather than hurrying to the end of the story, we are given time to grieve, wonder and wait. Our experience mirrors the disciples'—what sorrows did they face? And it allows space to grieve our personal experiences of death, our own losses and heartaches.
On Saturday evening we continue the story at the Great Vigil. We enter our churches solemnly, still shrouded in grief. But the darkness soon passes and turns to light. Early on Sunday morning two women have gone to Jesus' tomb—and they find it empty! While they stand in disbelief, two angels meet them. "Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?" they ask. After our long journey through Lent and Jesus' final path of suffering, our grief is turned to joy. Jesus is risen!
On Sunday morning, those who did not celebrate the Vigil come to church to celebrate the resurrection. The Scripture passage today is another account of this story. Peter and another disciple receive Mary's news that Jesus is not in the tomb. Can it be that the tomb is empty? They hurry to see for themselves and find Jesus' burial linens rolled up. They go home believing, but still not fully understanding "the scripture which said that he must rise from death" (John 20:9).
In many ways, we end Holy Week like these two men. Throughout Holy Week we have seen Scripture come to life. We have encountered Jesus' life, death and resurrection. And we celebrate being raised to new life in Christ! But we are just beginning to discover the fullness of Scripture's meaning. How will we encounter Christ in the days ahead? How will we live into the resurrection? As we continue delving deeper into the words of Scripture, how will it play out right around us?
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