The funeral parlor door slid closed. I stood quietly in the corner as a father, curled over into his son’s casket, cried out to God on a Tuesday morning. Thirty minutes earlier, I led a room full of people in celebrating this young man’s life. Now, there was no celebration. Just mourning and tears and unanswered prayers.
A few Bible classes had taught me the theological reasons for pain and suffering. At the funeral parlor that day, none of those catch phrases or cliches held weight. Using them felt like cleaning a septic tank with a paper towel.
They say the most loving thing you can do for someone who is suffering is to stand by them when the pain hits. I don’t know if it’s true or not — but that’s what I did. I stood and I waited and I listened. It was all I had to offer. And now, during Holy Week,
I’m offering the same thing to Jesus.
One of the incredible things about the Scriptures is that they invite us into these raw, sacred, holy moments where the divine collides with the familiar. When the eternal takes on the form of the temporal. Defining moments in time we can visit if we just take….the time.
Holy Week, for me, is one of the busiest times of the year. It means Easter is only seven days away, and since I’m on staff at a church — it’s Super Bowl Weekend — so they say. Rightfully so. It’s one of the biggest (in terms of production) and most attended services of the year. People who won’t normally set foot in a church will show up. Which means, as a minister, I want to make sure we put our best foot forward and leave it all out on the field, believing that the Holy Spirit will do His part and change their life with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
That’s all well and good. But it also means, in my life, Holy Week ends up being “Holy Crap – How Did We Survive That” Week. I have to take the time to prepare for services. I have to take the time to connect with family. I have to take the time to minister to people. And then, with what’s left over, I have to take the time to celebrate Resurrection.
Except, how can I celebrate the Resurrection of Christ if I wasn’t with Him in His suffering? That’s like watching only the end of Lord of the Rings. Why should I care if the hairy little man from Wilfred drops his jewelry in the volcano?
Maybe you’re like me. Perhaps it’s not church events you’re consumed with — it’s soccer practices, dance recitals, prepping Easter Baskets, or hiding from your in-laws. Before you know it, the week has come and gone and you’ve barely thought twice about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. All you’ve had time to think about is… Easter.
But Easter is only the period. It’s not the whole sentence. There’s more to the story. In order to appreciate the period, you have to discover the words the period brings resolution to.
Most historians tell us that the Church began observing Holy Week sometime in the fourth century. They held it with sanctity, providing rites and worship dedicated to observing and, at times, re-enacting Jesus’ final days. This is why many liturgical readings will walk through some of the final events of Jesus’ life. From the Garden of Gethsemane to Judas’ Betrayal; the Disciples Abandonment to Peter’s Denial; Illegal Tribunals to Jesus’ body being beaten and scourged; all the way to His agony on the cross and His burial in the tomb. Holy Week brings to us a Christ we don’t often see on Sunday mornings.
Many people (myself included) have a difficult time connecting with the Christ of Palm Sunday or Easter. He’s bigger than life. He’s glorious and honored and mighty. He always has the perfect answer. But the Christ of Holy Week — He’s you. He’s me. He’s those whom we’ve loved and lost.
He suffers and weeps.
He prays and wonders.
He doubts and bleeds.
He dies like…us.
Holy Week is an invitation to Jesus’ Church to enter into His suffering. It’s a season to find out, or perhaps to remember, why the period is so glorious. It’s an opportunity for us to find margin in our schedules, the same way we do when a loved one goes through bereavement or difficulty in life, to be there for them. It’s a chance to show up at a “funeral parlor on a Tuesday” to
By observing Holy Week through the Scriptures, we’re visiting Jesus Christ in His suffering. We’re listening in the Garden while His prayer goes unanswered. We’re waiting in the courts as He’s tried illegally. We’re standing at the foot of the Cross as His life slips away.
Because in the end, it’s all we have to offer Him.
And it’s enough.
Beginning Monday, I’m going to be journeying through Holy Week with some friends who’d like to set time aside to visit Christ in His suffering. Each day, we’ll look at a passage from Jesus’ final days and take some time to pray and seek Him. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you. Click this link to get the devotional emailed to you each day: SEND ME THE DEVOTIONAL