Holy Week and Easter are nearly upon us, which is very exciting because together Holy Week and Easter are the highpoint of the Christian year. Apart from one another, however, Holy Week and Easter offer us very little to celebrate. Without Easter, Holy Week is hopeless, but without Holy Week Easter can seem sort of pointless.
To Jesus’ first disciples, the discovery of the empty tomb on that first Resurrection Sunday was earth shattering, even before they had encountered the risen Jesus. Why? Because they were there when his lifeless body was laid in that tomb. They were there when he was taken down from the cross. They were there as he hung on that cross hovering in agony between life and death. They were with him, ate with him, the evening before his arrest and trial. They were there when the crowds yelled “Hosanna!” to Jesus at the beginning of the week, and when the crowds screamed “Crucify Him!” that very Friday. It was their journey with Jesus through that final week (not to mention the additional months and years that some of them had spent with Jesus) which made the events of that first Resurrection Sunday so earth shattering and so glorious.
Imagine the reaction of someone coming upon the empty tomb who didn’t know the first thing about what had happened the week before. Somehow they missed everything that had happened that week and yet also happened to stroll by the empty tomb. They wouldn’t have noticed anything strange, let alone miraculous, about that empty tomb. They may not have even noticed anything strange about the young man with the unusual scars standing out side the empty tomb.
If we want to be gripped by the power of what we celebrate at Easter, if we want to know, at some level, the surprise and mystery of the empty tomb and the utterly life changing experience of encountering the risen Jesus, one of the best things we can do is to be there with Jesus for Holy Week.
When you read the gospel accounts of the day of Christ’s resurrection there are some significant differences in the accounts, which is totally consistent with the tendency among different witnesses to remember dramatic events in different ways. One of the very important details that is consistent across these accounts, however, is that everyone who encountered the risen Jesus on that first Resurrection Sunday had also journeyed with Jesus through that first Holy Week. It is those who have journeyed with Jesus to his death who are made ready to be surprised by his glorious new life.
I hope you can join as we journey through Holy Week and prepare to encounter the risen Jesus.
Rev. David Turner
Rector of St. Paul’s, Hampton