In my sermon yesterday, I mentioned an idea that I hadn’t done much thinking about, wasn’t in my notes, and I hadn’t planned to talk about. In discussing the week-from-hell that Jesus was embarking upon as he sauntered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, I mentioned that it would be a week of evil. And it truly was an Evil Week—despite the fact we call it Holy. The same is true when it comes to the ‘goodness’ of that Friday. It truly was a Bad Friday—despite the fact we call it Good.
We only call these events ‘Holy’ and ‘Good’ out of hindsight. We know the ending of the story is Holy and Good, so we have retrospectively tagged the week as ‘holy’ and the Friday as ‘good.’ But for Jesus, the week was nasty and the Friday was torturous. And even for the first disciples, the week would have been confusing, dangerous, and maddening to witness, while that Friday would have been sad, excruciating, and disorienting. They have just watched their friend be killed and now this movement they have dedicated three years of their life to has come to a grinding and unfortunate halt.
There was nothing ‘holy’ and ‘good’ about that week and that Friday.
So, for us 2,000 years later, with the privilege of hindsight, we must be cautious to not-too-quickly move past the evil, bad, painful, and torturous elements of what we now know as Holy Week and Good Friday. Yes, we know that Sunday is coming and the hope of resurrection is just around the corner, but let’s patiently wait for Sunday while we faithfully dwell in the ambivalence of this week.
Let’s allow the evil of the week to remind us of how much evil we still see in the world today. Let’s allow the treachery of Judas to remind us of how easily we turn our backs on God and others. Let’s allow the mockery and violence of Friday to remind us of how often we scapegoat others and resort to violence in solving perceived problems. Let’s allow the loneliness and confusion of that Saturday to remind us of how often we feel forsaken and sense God as absent, even though he’s generally preparing his next miraculous intervention in our lives.
Let’s not too quickly race ahead to Sunday, while neglecting all that God might reveal to us and teach us through the pain of ‘Evil Week,’ the horror of ‘Bad Friday,’ and the desolation of ‘Lonely Saturday.’ And I trust that if we will do so—if we will allow each day of this week to be what it is and to sit in the emotions that the original Holy Week elicits—then the joy of Easter morning will be that much more ecstatic and the clarity of Jesus’ resurrection will be that much more illuminating.