Skipping the Painful?
“He was dead! Dead! DEAD!”
That was the loudest I ever heard the professor. It was my first semester of seminary and I was part of a small afternoon class on the third floor of the main classroom building. We spent the semester studying the Lord’s Prayer, the two-fold love commandment, and the Apostles’ Creed. And a classmate had just said that when we proclaim that Jesus died in the Apostles’ Creed, we did not really mean that Jesus died. And the professor immediately declared that, “He was dead! Dead! DEAD!”
It was a shock to the class to hear this loud pronouncement and it has stuck with me ever since. As we journey through Holy Week, it is imperative that we realize and acknowledge that Jesus really was crucified and DIED on the cross. It was not a symbolic death or a metaphorical death. Jesus died a complete physical death. Without Jesus dying on the cross, it is impossible to have the resurrection on Easter morning.
When we rush from the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to the joy of the empty tomb on Easter morning, we do not experience the pain and sorrow of the betrayal of Jesus by one of the twelve. We miss the trials of Jesus and the denial of Jesus by a trusted companion. We miss the humiliation of the journey to the cross and the suffering of a tortuous death.
In the short run, it can often feel better to miss these painful aspects of Holy Week. It would be so much easier if we could just focus on the triumphal entry and the joy of the resurrection. Yet, it is through acknowledging the events of this week that we can journey from the pain of Good Friday to the joy of Easter Sunday.
When we rush past the mourning, we are not able to understand the sorrow and shock that the women experienced when visiting the tomb and finding it empty. And when in our own lives we do not allow ourselves to mourn the losses we have experienced in life, we are not able to continue our journey because we become weighed down by the past.
The question has been asked, “If Christians really believe in the resurrection, why are we so afraid of death?” It is a challenging question, that shines a spotlight on our own mortality. We must allow space for grief. When we try to skip ahead, we are just postponing the important journey that we each must make at our own pace and in our own way.
I hope you will participate in one of the available Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship experiences. Yet, whether you can participate or not in a midweek service this week, we can all reflect on the critical events that happened between Palm Sunday and Easter morning. Jesus died and it is through His death that we are able to have resurrection.
And as you journey through the ups and downs of Holy Week, coming after a tumultuous year, let us celebrate the sure and certain hope of the resurrection in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois