Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
It’s easy to simply go from Palm Sunday to Easter. Turn the page from one upbeat story to another. Think about it… there was great energy and excitement in church this past Sunday. Our hymns were upbeat and the general parade-like atmosphere was light and jovial. We recounted the story of that first Palm Sunday, with children and people shouting and celebrating as Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The crowds were beyond ecstatic to roll out the red-carpet for Jesus; He received a hero’s welcome! No tension, no animosity, no real threat—just crowds celebrating with cloaks on ground and branches in their hands. Indeed, it is far more enjoyable to seamlessly transition from the excitement of Palm Sunday into the victorious choruses of Easter. However, when we do this, it is like receiving an Oreo cookie without the double-stuff filling inside. Something is missing! Sure, you may enjoy the crunchy, chocolate cookie on each side, but it is the inside filling that brings it all together to make one complete, tasty treat. Truth be told, without the inside, you don’t really have an Oreo at all.
In the church, if we only go from the triumphant “hosanna” of Palm Sunday to the glorious “He is risen!” of Easter Sunday, then we miss the important inside that brings it all together. If we don’t stop and commemorate the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, then something is dreadfully missing. We cannot have Holy Week without the center—the suffering and sacrifice—sandwiched between the two celebratory Sundays. Each day of Holy Week allows us to peek into the heart of our Savior at intently proximity. Each scene reveals further the nature of His redemptive work. Each act builds up to the reconciling power of His final sacrifice. Every step is significant. Every moment matters. Every action accentuates His authority. Every word proclaims the restorative power of our God. The story is building to a divine, climactic moment—how Jesus would change the history of the world forever.
Granted it is harder to worship in the middle of the week. Our home and work schedules are busier. The service time is less convenient. The sky is darker and there is more traffic on the roads. Plus, the once-uplifting nature of Palm Sunday takes a drastic turn. The exultant tone turns somber and dark. The parade gives way to the passion. The donkey gives way to death. The plot thickens and tragedy becomes unavoidable. The coming demise of Jesus is real and raw. We know it happens, we’ve heard the story; but it is still something we’d rather not ponder or think to intently about. Forget the bad news, just get to the good stuff. And so the temptation for us is to fast-forward. Skip the rest of the week and get to Easter. Maybe because we simply don’t like it, maybe it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe because it’s makes us feel bad or because it’s too graphic. Maybe because it’s just depressing. But no matter the reason, we dare not skip the cross.
We cannot skip the cross. It is here that we see what God does for us and what He gives to us. The cross is about God and His sacrificial love FOR us that knows no boundaries. From the roughhewn throne of a cross, Christ the King, looks at the world and no one escapes His judgement. He judges us all. From the cross the pronouncement is made, and the judgement is… FORGIVENESS. Here the Gospel is fulfilled, that declares: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17) The cross is where God saves us. Love and grace on beautiful display. It is where our sins are atoned for. It is where every chain and shackle is taken away. The cross is the good stuff, the essential stuff in the middle. It is what brings all of the Holy Week cookie together. Don’t miss it!
“The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken. He has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. It is also reveals a judgment, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Remember this: God, in judging us, loves us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns, he only loves and saves.” (Pope Francis)
Pastor Steve Vera