This week is Holy Week on the Christian calendar, the 7 days filled with Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and the betrayal in the garden, the cross, and the resurrection. It is seven action-packed days of some of the most formative events for Christians throughout the ages. The cross and the resurrection, are the most impactful of the week, and perhaps the most contrasting events. They are two events that most people tend to focus on the most. The darkness of Good Friday or the Joy of Easter Sunday. But what if we are supposed to do both, and sit in the tension between the two?
Good Friday does not feel good, no matter how many times you say it is. Jesus was arrested, placed on trial for a series of charges that he was completely innocent of, convicted in a kangaroo court, and condemned to the toughest penalty that existed under law. Then it was made worse. Jesus was not just hung on a cross like others, he was beaten, spit on, and charged to carry his cross to the site of his execution. Then He hung on a cross, innocent of any sin, taking the punishment of the Sins of the whole world so that we might be reconciled with God forever.
Easter Sunday, Jesus bursts out of a tomb constructed and defended like Fort Knox, appears to his closest followers, scares and confuses then, and then charges them to go change the world, like He just did when He conquered sin and death. Jesus resurrection offers us grace that we can’t and do not need to earn. Jesus offers us forgiveness and eternal life.
That’s the tension. Good Friday reminding us of the darkness of the human soul, and Easter Sunday giving us Joy and Hope. Maybe we are not supposed to rush from one to the next, or ignore one at the cost of the other, but instead sit in the tension created between the two.
This past winter has been 2nd coldest on record since 1886 in the state of Wisconsin. For perspective, it snowed on April 13th as I sat watching a baseball game. When it hits 60 again, or even 70, the joy in WI will be palpable. On the other hand in Arizona the average temperature in every month of the year besides January is above 70. If it’s 70 in Arizona tomorrow, no one will rejoice, it is normal.
Before Jesus arrival, our Jewish ancestors worked hard to earn God’s favor. They sacrificed animals, grain, wine and more to pay the price for their sins. They followed hundreds of laws to attempt to be remotely worthy in God’s eyes. Now we live under a new reality: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
The joy of Easter is best understood as you walk from the darkness of Good Friday into the blinding light of Easter Sunday. The freedom we enjoy is best understood when we take time to reflect on the deep cost that it came at, and breath and ridiculousness of God’s grace.
This Holy Week I encourage you to not linger in Good Friday so long that you miss Easter Sunday, or skip over Good Friday to pull out your Easter lilies. Take the tim, reflect deeply on the impact of the cross, and our need for confession. Celebrate the Hope and Joy that comes on Easter knowing that you were set free, and given a gift that you could never earn.