It’s Holy Week, again
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
37When he came near Jerusalem, at the place where the road went down the Mount of Olives, the large crowd of his disciples began to thank God and praise him in loud voices for all the great things that they had seen: v38″God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory to God!” Luke 19:37-38
Indeed, it is Holy Week once again. This Sunday marks the beginning of the most solemn observance in the mainstream Christian churches. It is called the Sunday of the Passion and popularly called Palm Sunday because of the palm or coconut fronds that the worshippers carry as they proceed to the church to commemorate what was dubbed later as the Triumphal Entry of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem. This day is the beginning of the Holy Week. The 19th chapter of the gospel of Luke shares its own account on that celebrated day when in his final days, Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem to fulfil his destiny. It was seen as a triumphant entry because the masses welcomed him as king whatever they meant at that time but definitely according him his proper title as the Son of God, the King of kings. That, we now understand and appreciate. Yet, why this Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday and the whole week so called Passion Week?
In the mainstream catholic tradition that includes the Episcopal/Anglican church, the service this Sunday starts with the commemoration of the final entry of Jesus and his disciples in the city of Jerusalem, the socio-political-economic and religious centre at that time. It was considered triumphant because the large crowd that welcomed him recognized him as king – or in their long expectation, the much-awaited Messiah, the saviour of the world. That is the only introduction of the liturgical celebration. In the main service the account of the whole week that ended in the crucifixion and burial of Jesus is read or chanted in the Gospel. This is the passion of Christ.
I read one preacher who wrote of his impression of this days of the Holy Week as “The Seven Days that Changed the World.” According to him and I agree that these seven days have been the topic of a million publications, countless debates, and thousands of films. These seven days have inspired the greatest painters, the most skilled architects, and the most gifted musicians. To try to calculate the cultural impact of these seven days is impossible. But harder still would be the attempt to account for the lives of men and women who have been transformed by them. Wow! This we now realize and appreciate. Yet, these seven days as they were played out in Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago were of little significance to anyone except for a few people involved. The same preacher summarized the ‘seven days’ of the following day-by-day descriptions:
1. On Sunday the first of the seven days, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of Hosanna, fulfilling an old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
2. On Monday he walked into the Jerusalem Temple overturning tables where money exchange occurred, Roman drachmas were being exchanged for Jewish shekels. Roman coins were not allowed. The image of Caesar was a violation of the second commandment. But the Temple authorities were using the Commandment as means to cheat the people and making the Temple a place of profit rather than a place of prayer.
3. On Tuesday Jesus taught in parables, warned the people against the Pharisees, and predicted the destruction of the Temple.
4. On Wednesday, the fourth day, we know nothing. The Gospel writers are silent. Perhaps it was a day of rest for him and his weary and worried disciples.
5. On Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. But he gave it a new meaning. No longer would his followers remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread.
They would remember his broken body and shed blood. Later that evening in the Garden of Gethsemane he agonized in prayer at what lay ahead for him.
6. On Friday, the fifth day, following betrayal, arrest, imprisonment, desertion, false trials, denial, condemnation, beatings and sentencing, Jesus carried his own cross to “The Place of the Skull,” where he was crucified with two other prisoners.
7. On Saturday, Jesus lay dead in a tomb bought by a rich man named Joseph.
8. On Sunday, his Passion was over, the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was alive. He appeared to Mary, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the 11 disciples gathered in a locked room. His resurrection was established as a fact.
Back then these seven days were called Passover, as it is still called today by the Jews. Christians around the world know these seven days as Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ. In our culture the emotion, pain, and passion of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been lost… or so it seems. (esermons.com)
Having explored the background and biblical theology or message relating the event of the Passion of Christ to our lives as believers of the Christian traditions as we shall be doing this coming week, let us ponder seriously. Let me share the following thoughts that directly support our intention of making this Holy Week relevant and somehow address to our spiritual searching.
When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, “Hosanna,” do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from? Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression. Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from getting sent back to Iraq. Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from staring at the ceiling at three a.m. wondering why I exist. Save me from bitterness. Save me from arrogance. Save me from loneliness. Save me, God, save me from my fears.
In viewing Palm Sunday from that angle, we can begin to see the potential for some real depth in this celebration, for embedded in our quaint pageantry is an appeal to God that originates in the most vulnerable places inside of us; and it bubbles, almost beyond our control, to the surface. “Hosanna.” “Save us.” Please God take the broken places that will tear us apart and make them whole. We beseech you, God, jump into the water and drag our almost-drowned selves to shore. “Save us.” “Hosanna.” (Scott Black Johnston, Save Us)
In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha’s despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What’s so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What’s wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb.
Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we’d like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we’re part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 plus years later Jesus’ disciples are still running away. (Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It’s All Over).
Let us pray.
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Palm Sunday Collect, ECP-BCP)**