Holy Week is kind of emotionally challenging for me.
We start with the joy of Palm Sunday with its shouts of “Hosanna!” and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We’re waving palm branches and talking about the stones crying out…
And then we have Maundy Thursday, where we observe the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the washing of the disciple’s feet, and then the betrayal, arrest, and beating of our Lord. Also in the mix we have Peter’s betrayal.
Then there’s Good Friday.
I know we call it “good” and I understand it all had to happen this way, but He is nailed to that cross for my sins. I don’t think anyone present at the event called it “good” at the time.
Well, except for perhaps the Pharisees.
You can call this “good” all you want, and more than one preacher has eloquently made the case for rejoicing on these two days, but when I wrap my head and my heart around these events, I am not dancing. I feel deep grief and sadness and guilt.
Have any of you been to a Tenebrae Service? The name comes from the Latin word for “shadows” or “darkness” and you physically pound a nail into a cross to remind yourself of what Jesus did for you. And it’s not just a couple of people. The whole church does it. Men, women, children. The ushers hand out the nails as the people approach the cross and they make sure the hammers get handed efficiently from one person to the next. If you’re too young or too old to pound the nail in yourself, one of the ushers will do it for you.
I can still hear the church echoing with the sound of hundreds of hammer blows pounding those nails in.
Then the pastor reads the last seven things Jesus said on the cross, slams the Bible shut, and all the lights go out and you walk out in darkness and silence.
That has brought me to tears.
They framed Jesus. They set Him up and killed Him. He was humiliated, beaten, spit upon, nailed to a cross… and died this horrible, awful, death.
Then they stuck Him in a tomb and sealed the door.
Done. Over. Finished.
And this was all for you and me. Because we could never make up for what we have done. There is absolutely no possible way we could put ourselves right with God, so GOD let US kill HIM so we could be right with Him.
And we didn’t just kill Him. No. We had to come up with some really, really evil and hideous way to do it.
Well, mission accomplished.
At that Tenebrae service, they don’t just give you one nail. They give you two.
One you nail into the cross. The second you keep in your pocket so you can remember all this.
Like I would ever forget.
I have a suitcoat I rarely wear (pretty much funerals only) and I would find that nail in the right hand pocket every time I wore it—for years afterwards.
And that’s why Holy Week is so hard.
That stuff sinks in. It permeates you. The sky of your soul turns dark not for three hours, but for three days. Your stone heart cracks and splits in two. The veil covering over the darkness of your heart is torn in two. And, if your soul had been dead to all its sin, it staggers out of the grave weeping—seeking to repent and forgive.
And then it’s Saturday.
You still have all that stuff still going on inside you from Good Friday, but you know what’s coming on Sunday. Still, Saturday is kind of like being a spiritual zombie. Half alive, half dead—suspended in the middle.
And then, you wake up and it’s Easter morning. The sun is shining and JESUS IS ALIVE!
Yes, HE IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN!!
But, when I put myself into the place of the people who loved Jesus on that first Resurrection Sunday, it’s not hard to understand how they reacted:
1. No. Can’t be.
2. What? You saw Him? Nonsense. You’re talking crazy.
3.Really? Yes, come to think of it, He did say He would rise again, but…c’mon. No way.
4.Jesus? He’s… He’s here? He’s here!
5. HE IS ALIVE!!!
And, after that, nothing would ever shut them up.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:30-32 NLT)