Easter is coming. I don’t know how that makes you feel. For me there is always a mixture of emotions.
Easter Day is one of the most incredible days of my year. It is a day of joy and excitement, of overwhelming gratitude and celebration. However, to get to Easter Sunday I have to first journey through Good Friday and, as we call it in our house, ‘weird Saturday’.
Now for many people Easter is all about chocolate eggs, bunnies and a few days off. Even for many of us in church it is easy to miss out on the difficult journey and leap to the destination. However, I would encourage you this year to journey through the whole story of Jesus’ last week.
It starts with Palm Sunday – Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In church that morning we tell the story of the crowds shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’. Everyone in the city is asking, ‘Who is Jesus?’ The disciples must have thought all their Christmases had come at once (perhaps that phrase doesn’t quite work, but you know what I mean). Finally the people were recognising who Jesus was – this was it! Things were starting! Well, they were, but not in the way the disciples thought.
Maundy Thursday – Jesus organises a meal with his best mates. He says some really strange stuff, but the gangs’ all together. I am sure there was laughter and joy, silly jokes and teasing – like there is when friends eat together.
Jesus suggests a walk – and then the night changes. The disciples sleep… Jesus is desperate… soldiers come.
Good Friday – If Easter Day is one of my favourite days of the year, then this is by far one of the most difficult. Because today we remember what Jesus went through – the pain, the suffering, the loneliness, the agony. We hear the cry of the crowds change to ‘Crucify him’. We remember that he chose that day to suffer for us – and it was a choice. Way back after his baptism Satan tempted Jesus to choose a different path – not the path of the cross – but Jesus refused. Jesus chose to be there – for me and for you.
This day is solemn and holy and sad, and in many ways I dread it. I don’t want to think about the pain my friend suffered. I wish we could fastforward to Sunday – skip a few pages in the Bible. But Sunday only makes sense if we have lived through the agony of Good Friday, imagined what it was to be the a disciple, thinking that all your hopes are dead, thinking you have been duped, seeing years of your life end there.
Holy Saturday / Weird Saturday – The waiting day. Nothing feels quite right. Nothing is concluded. We wait.
Easter Day – Oh my days!! This is when we celebrate! Forget chocolate and bunnies – the joy as we experience the revelation of Jesus’ resurrection is incredible! The stories come in from all sides… The first evangelist, Mary, telling the disciples, ‘He’s alive!’ Peter and john finding the empty tomb. Cleopas and his friend rushing back to tell of an encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. It’s true, he’s risen, everything has changed! 2000+ years later we are still celebrating this and living life filled with joy because of this fact. Today is the day that we rejoice and shout with intensity and overwhelming excitement:
‘HALLELUJAH, he is RISEN! He is RISEN indeed, HALLELUJAH!’
This year, join the journey. Put space in your diary, read the Gospel, come together with the church, walk the ups and downs of Holy Week, so that we can truly rejoice together.