We are about to embark upon Holy Week, also called “The Great Week,” the days leading up to the central feast of the Christian Church: Easter.
Sometimes I would like to skip Holy Week, go right from the triumphal entry in Jerusalem with the people shouting “Hosanna” to the empty tomb and the proclamation ”He is Risen!” There is enough tribulation in the world about us to know that evil exists and it is seemingly triumphant. Violence and corruption are everywhere, and we do not need to look far beyond the doors of Emmanuel Church to find them.
But it is important to hear the stories of Holy Week again. Betrayal, arrest, trial, torture, and finally crucifixion, which Cicero termed “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.” All of these—save crucifixion, which has been replaced by sanitized execution—are still a part of our life now. So, when we hear that Jesus went through this week, we know it to be an archetype of what happened before him and after him. In the events of the week, we acknowledge that it has ever been thus.
We recognize that people who have experienced for themselves the things that Jesus experienced have been broken by them. Many of us at Emmanuel have experienced betrayal at some time in our lives, some torture, be it physical or psychological. Perhaps hearing that Jesus went though the same is helpful, or perhaps it brings memories flooding back.
This is a pretty bleak meditation so far, but I call to mind the hymn which we will sing in Eastertide: “The powers of death have done their worst, but Christ their legions hath dispersed.”
As we journey through Holy Week, we always have in mind that in the end Christ is victorious, and in his victory is our victory. That we not only will be but are victorious over the powers of evil, the powers of death, can give us strength to bear what comes our way, those powers which, in Luther’s words, “should threaten to undo us.”
Let us remember that we know how the story comes out.