As I ponder the question, “What are some of my traditions and practices associated with Holy Week?” memories of my childhood and the church I grew up in come flooding in. It was a traditional Baptist church, so we held close to the church calendar, and that meant we were at church A LOT during Holy Week.
Here’s a brief summary of how my younger, more obnoxious self would summarize this week:
Palm Sunday: “Why am I being handed a leaf in the shape of a cross when I leave church?”
Maundy Thursday: “Why is it called ‘Monday’ Thursday … and why are we at church on a Thursday?!”
Good Friday: “Does this community Easter Pageant really need to take 3 hours?”
Easter Sunday: “Sunrise services are the worst and I’m allergic to all these flowers–but at least there are pancakes!”
Of course, these are gross oversimplifications. As I look back, I realize that while I had a basic understanding of what each of these events signified, I had very little appreciation for the narrative they created together and the greater picture of Jesus they painted.
The disciples themselves had a similar issue with understanding exactly what was happening in the moment and the things Jesus was telling them were to come (Luke 18:34; John 13:7). Eventually, it began to click for them (John 16:29-31).
This has been my experience. As I have matured and my faith has matured, the events of Holy Week become more clear and meaningful to me each year. It took me a while to realize that this was happening, but once I did, I have made it a goal to seek out new and better understanding each year.
Often, this has been a slow, arduous discipleship journey into what Christ did, and continues to do through the events of this one week. Whether it is praying for better understanding; meditating on the gospel accounts of the Upper Room, Passion, and Resurrection; or worshiping in response to all he has done, God is always faithful and the work is worth it!
This year, however, this journey has looked a little different.
I am currently leading a group of 7th and 8th graders through the Gospel of John on Monday evenings. Almost half of this Gospel takes place during Holy Week, and a large chunk of that is the last 24 hours leading up to the crucifixion. While the timing of this was unintentional, this is what we have been studying these last 2 weeks leading up to Easter.
What began as Bible study to teach Middle School students how to read scripture has turned into so much more. You can hear the genuine curiosity in their questions. They want to know: “If Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him, why didn’t he stop him?” (John 13:26) and “What exactly is the Holy Spirit and why does Jesus have to go away for us to get it?” (John 16:7).
I probably never would have asked a question like that at their age (see summary above). But it is evident in being with them, these students have a passionate desire for knowing Jesus and are inspiring me to look again at the events of the week leading up to Easter with fresh eyes.
I pray that this Holy Week all of us can be inspired by the innocence and honesty of asking questions and pursuing Jesus. And that when we worship, alone or together at a service this week, it will be in awe and wonder at all the amazing ways he has shown his love for us!
Walking with you this week on the discipleship journey with Jesus.