As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).
This is Holy Week.
I write that sentence more for myself than for you. I can hardly believe it’s true. It doesn’t feel like holy Week – whatever that week feels like. I guess I’m still trying to get my head around how this week will be void of all the activities and plans and expectations and rituals that typically get me ready for Easter. None of those things are happening this week, or at least what is happening is happening in very different ways.
And yet, knowing the differences and feeling the sadness that comes with them, it occurs to me that maybe this Holy Week is tapping something in all of us that just might help us walk with Jesus in ways that are more authentic and true to what the week should be.
If you’re feeling a heaviness of spirit, a heartache over what could have been or what’s been lost, then welcome to Holy Week as Jesus experienced it.
Sorrowful from the Start
On the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem – what you and I call Palm Sunday – he was surrounded by elation and expectation. They shout words from a Messianic Psalm, clearly expressing their hope that Jesus had come to do a saving work among them. “Save us we pray, O Lord . . . blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps. 118:25-26).
Did the twelve share this excitement? Maybe. But we know from Mark 10:32 that as Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, “those who followed him were afraid.”
And what seems very clear is that Jesus himself didn’t join the celebration. We don’t see him perched on the donkey’s colt, throwing high-fives all around, pumping a fist in the air. In fact, quite the opposite. Luke tells us that as Jesus “drew near and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Strange how those who waved branches and threw their cloaks on the ground failed to see this.
The one they celebrated wasn’t celebrating. He entered Jerusalem with a heavy heart, sorrowful. That’s how Holy Week started for Jesus.
And maybe that’s how this week is starting for you.
Not the Week We Wanted
Monday brought dire warnings from the U.S. Surgeon General. The phrase “Pearl Harbor Moment” was used. I don’t have statistics to cite here, and you don’t need them anyway. As the number of deaths climbs, we know what the Surgeon General is telling us. This will be a bad week. Simply put, this will be a week where things go from bad to worse.
In this regard, our Holy Week will track the final days of Jesus’ life.
After entering Jerusalem, Jesus quickly ran into controversy when he expelled vendors and money changers from the temple courts. Jesus was no stranger to controversy – but this week things spiraled downward quickly. Within a matter of a few days, controversy had given birth to conspiracy as one of the twelve agrees to betray Jesus for a price.
The physical sufferings of Jesus didn’t begin until late Thursday night, and through the earliest hours of Friday morning, culminating in his execution Friday. But Jesus had already started the week with sorrow. Sorrow that never abated.
A week that went from bad to worse. Perhaps much like the week we’re being told to get ready for.
The Holy Week ‘Gap’
This year, this week, more than any other tie that I can recall, I’m aware of the gap that exists between my “church preparations” for Easter Sunday and the biblical narrative that gives shape to this week. My confession here isn’t meant to take anything away from what my church or any church does to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I’m simply recognizing that Holy Week for me usually brings with it a great deal of anticipation. I guess in that regard I’m a bit like the crowds of people that welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem.
The biblical story, however, is about a week that begins in sorrow and ends in the worst imaginable suffering. This year, the anticipation and preparation are largely gone. The sorrow sits heavy on us.
This isn’t the Holy Week I wanted. But I can promise you it’s a Holy Week I’ll never forget. The journey with Jesus has never been more meaningful.
So how should we live these days?
I want to urge you not to treat this week or this Easter like a ‘lost’ holiday. Don’t let yourself lament what you won’t be doing and thus miss what God is allowing us to do in a different way.
Ways to Engage the Week
First, actively engage spiritual practices that will pull you into this week. If you’re a part of the Grace Church family (or anyone else for that matter) be sure to catch Marnie’s short meditations every morning on Facebook live as she walks us through this Holy Week. There will also be a Maundy Thursday worship service online this Thursday evening. And of course, we will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection come Sunday morning.
Second, and perhaps more personally, name your sorrows. Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, and we might be weeping over our own city or country. Sit quietly in the presence of Jesus and invite him to meet you in whatever heartache you are bearing today. Jesus willingly entered into the suffering that awaited him. He will meet you in yours.
Finally, we know something that those first disciples didn’t fully grasp during the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. We know the reality of resurrection. We need not rush past the sufferings of Holy week, but neither should we lose sight of the resurrection hope that is already ours.
A new day is coming. For that, we yearn. And for that, we wait.
Lord Jesus, grant us grace to walk with you in these days of Holy Week, feeling the weight of sorrow and yet the knowing the promise of resurrection hope. Keep us faithful, all the way to the cross. Make us ready for the empty tomb, we ask in your name. Amen.
One thought on “A Week that Goes From Bad to Worse”
Mark, thanks for this devotional. It surely is a new perspective of Holy Week. It is helping me have a better understanding of Jesus’s sorrow and suffering. Salom, Patsy
Sent from my iPad