Holy Week is a special time to reflect as Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection are commemorated.
I also get to remember how deeply loved I am, when I consider Jesus willingly suffering and dying on the cross for me. I love guiding people through the significance of Jesus’ journey to the cross and his resurrection.
Once during a ministers’ conference, the speaker said that on Easter, too much talk about the crucifixion and the events surrounding it is “a downer.” Talk about the good parts, we were told, because it gives people hope — focus on the resurrection. People are not coming back to the church to hear about the crucifixion, the speaker claimed.
But I wonder: Are there any bad parts to the story?
Talking about Jesus being denied by a friend, betrayed by a disciple, and turned on by a crowd is not bad. Isn’t it an opportunity to allow people to meet Jesus in his humanity and divinity? Jesus experienced the same messiness of life many of us are experiencing or will experience. But he knew his destiny; and though he could have walked away from the divine assignment, he didn’t.
Jesus had a choice and decided I was worth the torture and pain he was experiencing. He knew he was going to be resurrected. He knew the resurrection would be a bridge connecting me to his Father — our Father. When people understand the depth of love exhibited by this act, it draws them to the Savior.
Recently, while picking up coffee, I heard a store clerk shouting at a man in the aisle to bring the candy he was putting in his pocket to the counter to pay for it. He put the candy on the counter; however, the clerk did not see the sandwich and treat he was holding in his other hand. When she realized it, he was running out of the store. The clerk prepared to chase the man while the store owner called the police. A customer agreed to pay for the items if the owner would not call the police.
When the man realized no one was chasing him, he looked surprised and scurried up the street.
I wondered how hungry the man was to steal an egg salad sandwich from a convenience store. I also wondered how he would have reacted to the customer’s kindness.
He left without knowing his debt was paid. He was free to go. The food belonged to him.
That information probably would have surprised him. A stranger thought enough of his plight to free him from arrest (even though the man likely deserved the punishment for taking the items).
I thought about the spiritual implications, too. What the customer did for the man was what Jesus did for me. It made me sad because the man did not know he was free to go. I wondered how many people live with the burden and guilt of sin, but don’t know they are free to walk away from it.
Commemorating Jesus’ last week on earth reminds us of John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” That is why sharing all that happened to Jesus leading up to the crucifixion at calvary is important.
Life’s problems do not disappear. They didn’t disappear for Jesus. How Jesus handled problems was different. Inviting people to see the messiness of what happened to Jesus and how he handled it is something that gives us all hope — not just the Resurrection.
Jesus loved Peter despite Peter denying him. Jesus washed Judas’ feet even though he knew he would betray him. He accepted the crowd’s praise, even though he knew they would demand he be crucified.
Jesus also knew the end of the story.
In Mark 8, after Peter said Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus talks about his death and resurrection. “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”
Telling the whole story is a holy adventure that provides examples of ways to navigate through life’s challenges.
Reflecting on those challenges and the triumph over them is a fresh reminder of how Jesus’ love for others pushed him to endure torture so he could lay down his life for his friends. It is also an opportunity to tell somebody who doesn’t know about the beauty of Jesus’ love. They need to know that the cost of their sins, and the guilt and shame that accompany them, are covered.
People need to know what led to the morning when women, coming to slather fragrant oils on a decaying body, found the stone rolled away from an empty tomb. This is a time to remember why Easter is a celebration. It’s not just about the resurrection, but everything that surrounds it.