Like so many things in life right now, Holy Week feels different and strange to me.
Yesterday marked the official beginning of Holy Week for this year.
Palm Sunday typically feels like a celebratory day in church: we sing upbeat praise songs with “hosanna” in them, our kids happily bring home palm branches from their Sunday school classes, and there is a palpable sense of excitement about Easter coming in just one week. Our church services usually remind us of the beautiful scene laid out in all four Gospels—Jesus entering Jerusalem the week before Passover. He’s welcomed by crowds of people shouting his praises, laying their cloaks before him on the ground, and waving palm branches in worship.
Like so many other things in life right now, Holy Week feels different and strange to me. Some churches are able to stream services online, but that sense of excitement and celebration feels a little lost, if not completely forgotten, doesn’t it? For me, Holy Week this year feels particularly weighty and dark. National leaders and medical professionals are predicting that this week and next will be especially difficult as COVID-19 cases and deaths peak.
While it doesn’t feel like the air of Palm Sunday that I’m accustomed to, I wonder if our present circumstance is giving us an opportunity to experience and understand the significance of Holy Week in a new, deeper way…
If we consider the Holy Week that Jesus had, it was certainly one drenched in pain and suffering. Even on Palm Sunday, amidst the exuberant praises of the crowd, Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that in just a few short days many of those very voices singing His praises would be shouting, “Crucify him!” He knew He was about to be betrayed and abandoned by His closest friends, dealt with unjustly by authorities, brutally beaten, and crucified as a criminal. Having chosen to fully enter into humanity, we know that Jesus felt every moment of that awful week, emotionally, relationally, spiritually and physically. But Jesus knew the story didn’t end there. He knew more was coming.
We are all now experiencing certain degrees of pain and loss, and we know there may be more yet to come. As we step into this unusual Holy Week, may we hold closely to the Father, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).
[Editor’s Note: The Philippians 4:8 Project is a daily centering of the WC community’s collective hearts and minds on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ]