When you look at the gospels you notice that they all move fairly rapidly. But when we get to the events of the final week of Jesus’ life everything slows down, and we get great detail. In fact, in John’s narrative nearly half of the gospel is dedicated to the final days. It is almost as if gospels are mostly introductions to the passages about what we’ve come to call Holy Week.
The week ahead will be filled with great emotional ups and downs. Look at all that goes on this week. There is a parade, palms, shouts, confrontations, predictions, Passover, betrayal, denial, nails, thorns, crucifixion, abandonment, pain, death, burial, quiet, numbness, Sunday, light, surprise, hope, love, eternal laughter. It is truly a strange and wonderful time.
As I stand at the beginning of this Holy Week, aware of what it will entail ― of all that it will ask of me, and ultimately offer me ― I’m feeling wholly weak.
As a result of all emotional ups and downs of this week, we unfortunately end up with a watered down version of this sacred time. But with that we can’t fully experience and feel deeply the true spirit of Easter. We try to maintain an even keel throughout this week and end up only partially joyous.
This is simply true because we try to avoid the humiliation and painful parts, opting instead for only the good stuff. My friend, colleague and mentor, Richard Wing, once told me: if you do not get in contact with Friday, you cannot dance on Sunday!
Rabbi A. James Rudin was asked to speak in a church on Good Friday, and declared Good Friday as belonging to both Christians and Jews. The text for both is the verse, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22).
Rabbi Rudin said, “I share an aspect of Good Friday with you because of a simple but powerful Jewish imperative. Once, the story goes, the beloved rabbi was nearing death. Gathered around the dying rabbi are many of his disciples. They cry in unison as they proclaim their great love for their spiritual leader, but the rabbi musters his last strength and tells his students. ‘You have constantly professed your love for me, but not once, not once have you ever asked what hurts me. If you do not know what hurts me, what causes me pain, how can you truly love me?’”
As we gather together this week let us ask one another, “What hurts you?” What we will discover in people from all kinds of religions and backgrounds is the thread that binds the human family together. After sharing what hurts, without others trying to heal or fix it, we will discover in ourselves our very own Easter.
May God bless us as we follow the many moods, paths, contradictions and triumphs that make this week sacred for us.