- By: Pastor Shawn
- Exploratory Musings on Faith and Life from Pastor Shawn
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:27
Christians like Christmas and Easter. Both are 'feel good' holidays; we can be joyful and celebrate Jesus Christ, God incarnate, and what his coming meant for us. We can be thankful for the promises of salvation and eternal life, and bask in wonder at the love God has for all of creation, including us.
We're generally not as excited by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Many people find Maundy Thursday off-putting: speaking of Christ's be-trayal and suffering is difficult, and the rituals involved—stripping the altar, foot-washing—take us out of our comfort zone. We may still be sitting with the rest of our congregation, but suddenly we feel alone, contemplating emotions that are not easily shared. Good Friday takes this one step further. The crucifixion is grisly to con-template if we dwell on the de-tails, and even without that it is a day of mourning and sadness. When one is used to coming to church to be uplifted and re-newed, Good Friday is a shock to the system. No wonder so many people prefer to avoid it.
Yet I submit to you that, without Good Friday, Christmas and Easter are both meaningless. Christ came into the world knowing that his destination was the cross. God became human to show us in tangible form what the kingdom of God is like. Without death, Christ would not have been fully human. Because he suffered, Christ knows what our suffering is like, and is pre-sent with us in our suffering. The cross was the ultimate expression of Christ's love for us. Without the cross, Christmas was unnecessary.
Without the cross, Easter could not have happened. Not only did Christ take our sins upon himself and die for us, but he was raised again to give us the promise of new life, everlasting life, life in God's presence. The resurrection demonstrates that death is not the final sentence in our story. We take joy in Easter because of Good Friday, and our astonishment that Christ is risen is precisely what leads to our joy and celebration. We can-not rejoice if we have not felt loss.
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are days of love. On Maundy Thursday Christ showed his love for his disciples. He was preparing them for what was to come, and to go on with-out him, as gently and lovingly as possible. This can get lost when we let our own knowledge of what is to come get in the way of experiencing the day and its symbolic richness. On Maundy Thursday we are bathed in and by Christ, so that we may have a share with him. On Good Fri-day Christ showed his love for the world, in all its brokenness and stubborn refusal to acknowledge what Christ had to teach. When we skip past Good Friday and go straight to Easter, we risk losing sight of the depth of that love.
Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter, is a roller coaster of both emotions and of theological importance. It is difficult to fully appreciate the glory of both the beginning and end of the week if we do not also experience the middle. I urge you not to bypass Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Take the time to give them their due and to reflect on their meaning. Yet if and when you do, do not get lost in despair. Christ's love for us shows through on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday perhaps more than on any other days of the year. Let that love wash over you and bring you peace.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.