Grace to you as we enter into a very special week. It is Holy Week. It starts with the Passion of our Lord as He enters the city of Jerusalem and culminates with an empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Talk about running the gauntlet.
In between the joyous shouts as Jesus rides into the city of “Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!” and the even more powerful rejoicing that we can engage in today tied to the Easter message of “He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” are tones of a more somber nature. In between lies Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
On Maundy Thursday, we usually focus on the instituting of the Lord’s Supper, transforming the Passover feast of remembering into the victory feast over the defeat of sin, death and the devil. This is an awesome thing. Unfortunately, it can cause us to miss out on the tremendous example of discipleship as Jesus washes the feet of the disciples that night. That’s a message we seldom hear enough — a message of humility and service we need to live by.
That day, usually quite well attended, is followed by what I have seen in my own experience, and heard about from fellow pastors, the most poorly attended service of the entire church year — Good Friday. Even though it is the completion of our long Lenten journey, as well as the final step before the celebration of Resurrection morning can occur, there is a reluctance for many Christians to stand before the cross of Christ. We do not want to see the full price that our Lord paid so that we could have the forgiveness of our sins. It grieves us, as well it should, because we sent Jesus to the cross. It was our sins He paid for and died for that day. We can talk about it during the year and we most certainly believe it, but we seem not to want see it or relive it.
I never cease to be amazed at how so many of us can skip over the powerful message of Good Friday and think we can full understand and appreciate the glorious declaration of Easter morning and Resurrection of Jesus or the promise of our own. This may be a lousy analogy, but it would be like hiding plain, white hard boiled eggs for children to find on Easter morning instead of the brightly and gaily colored eggs they eagerly seek out and collect in their baskets. Like the white eggs, we have a basic understanding of the Good Friday’s victory of Jesus on the cross, but it cannot be truly complete or achieve its full glory unless we stand at its foot with Mary, the mother of our Lord, John, the disciple whom He loved, and a centurion who declared “Truly, this man is the Son of God!”
I cannot urge and encourage you enough, please make worship on Good Friday a priority for your celebration of Easter Sunday. The bitter tears of sorrow that come forth when we see the suffering of our Lord on the cross will most certainly make way for tears of joy and happiness when we behold an empty tomb. I promise.
Have a blessed Easter. He is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Pastor Lee R. Harder