[Ed. Next week the Church (the church universal) commemorates Holy Week. Several years ago, we were have a discussion with several of our clergy friends and we were dealing with the question of Palm Sunday. Do you celebrate Palm Sunday or do you focus on the cross? For many Christians, they come to church on Palm Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The next time they come to church is Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. It is great that we have both of these celebrations, but are we missing something? Jesus speaks of suffering to his disciples. Paul speaks of suffering for the cause of Christ. He even goes so far to ask, “What do we expect?” when it comes to suffering. The cross is an essential part of the redemption of humankind. The Bible tells us without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. This is an essential part of the atonement – the blood that Jesus shed for us is what paid the penalty for our sins – it restores the relationship that God had planned for us all along. That is a rather long introduction to Pam’s post this week, “Are We Afraid of the Cross?”]
Several Sundays ago, I was teaching about communion during our Elementary Worship Celebration. I started out by talking about Lent – it is a time to remember what Christ did for us on the cross and that it is a preparation time for the Easter season. “Communion,” I said, “Is a time we remember the last supper.” Each child was given a picture of the last supper. I asked if any of them knew what the picture was and when it happened. One of the children asked if it happened at Easter.” I was happy to know that they were in the right ballpark. Then I asked them what happened on Holy Thursday. I was sure they would not know Maundy Thursday. The children were not aware of the events of Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. I was surprised that children didn’t know and yet in a way I was not surprised. As Dale mentioned during the introduction, we teach about Palm Sunday on that day, and the resurrection on Easter and forget that there were a whole week’s worth of events that happened in between.
Here are some of the events that happened from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday:
- Jesus cleansed the temple. (Matthew 21)
- Jesus teaches the people many parables. (Matthew 21-25)
- Jesus was anointed at Bethany (Mark 14)
- Jesus observes the widow’s offering (Luke 21)
- Jesus met with his disciples in the upper room for their final meal together
- Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him.
- Jesus prayed and was arrested in Gethsemane.
- Jesus endured several illegal trials.
- Jesus was mocked and beaten.
- Jesus was crucified.
- Jesus was buried.
The week that Jesus spent in Jerusalem was a busy week. From the biblical accounts, he did a great deal of teaching during that final week.
Why do we focus on the bookend events of Holy Week and not the space in between? Is it that we are afraid of the cross? Are we afraid to speak of Christ’s suffering? Is it that we cannot deal with the reality that Christ was beaten to within an inch of his life? Is it the thought of the flesh hanging from his body after all those beatings? Or the holes in his head from the crown of thrones? Or perhaps it is the guilt that our sins put him up on the cross. Unfortunately, when we focus on the bookend events, we miss a great deal of the story. Over the last few years, we have put a concentrated effort on highlighting the events of Thursday and Friday, so that people understand the price that was paid through Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Last year, we had a very meaningful Good Friday service. This year, we are planning a Maundy Thursday service. Events like these are great, but we also need to remember what God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy. We (parents) are commanded by God to teach our children the things of God. 4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.) It is important to tell our children the story of Jesus, that not only did he rise up from the dead victorious, but that he suffered for our sins – that his body was bruised and broken for us – it was literally torn in two for us. I encourage you to spend some time in your Bibles this next week, recalling the events that happened in the space in between: Matthew 21-27, Mark 11 -15, Luke 19-23, and John 12-19. Let’s not be afraid of the cross of Jesus for it is in the cross and the price that was paid that our sins are forgiven.