Every year something stands out in the drama of Holy Week, which begins with Jesus’ dramatic entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
On Maundy/Holy Thursday, Jesus celebrates the first Communion amid a Seder meal that commemorates Passover and escape from bondage in Egypt. Jesus then washes his disciples’ feet and commands them to love one another. People will know that we are Christians by our love. Churches are known in a variety of ways, but rarely by love. The Maundy/Holy Thursday service ends with a silent commemoration of when Jesus was betrayed, captured by civil and religious authorities, and interrogated.
On the Friday we call “Good,” Jesus goes to the cross for our sins. Jesus performed a variety of miracles, yet willingly went to the cross. On the cross, he says the most amazing thing — something that struck me as though I had never heard it before, despite having heard and read it many times. According to the 34th verse of the 23rd chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
That’s a remarkable statement, especially when you consider that he is saying this to the very people who captured, tortured and crucified him.
Jesus’ statement of forgiveness raises many questions. What had the people done to deserve or earn Jesus’ forgiveness? In what ways did they repent or demonstrate remorse? They neither repented nor showed remorse. They did nothing to deserve or earn his forgiveness.
What about you and me? What have any of us done to earn Jesus’ forgiveness (and love)? In the prayer that Jesus taught us, known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “… forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us … .” That statement is not about taking a shortcut across someone else’s property. It is about you forgiving others just as you seek God’s forgiveness for yourself. There appears to be a direct connection between forgiveness given and forgiveness received.
The Good Friday service ends in silence following reading of Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial.
Holy Saturday can be an uncomfortable time of waiting. As Christians, we know the Good News, yet Saturday is a time to reflect on the experience of the grief at that time of the followers of Christ.
Easter/Resurrection Sunday, we hear of the faithful followers going to visit Jesus’ grave. There were no Easter baskets filled with fake grass, jellybeans and chocolates. There was profound grief followed by shock followed by awe. Jesus was no longer dead, He had risen!
We are living through very stressful times. Faith in Christ is what keeps me going.
Rev. Stephen Reed is pastor at St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall and chaplain for police and fire. Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on April 16, 2023
Married 27 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting