A little boy was asked if he understood the meaning of Easter. He replied, “Sure, that’s when the bunny comes out of the tomb hoping to see his shadow.”
Definitely a case of mistaken identity. And yet the youngster’s confusion about the most significant week of the Christian calendar is not unique.
Holy Week seems a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every year, Christians observe the same thing. Palm Sunday. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. The hymns are the same. The Scripture readings are the same. We do it all over again year after year.
But what is it all about, anyway? For the benefit of those Islanders who do not observe the Christian holidays, consider Christianity as a two-act play.
In Act One, the Creator seeks to communicate His love for His creation by coming into the world and taking the name Jesus (or Jeshua, meaning “the Lord saves”). Becoming skin and bones, the Almighty experiences the joys and sorrows of the human condition personally (Christmas).
The events of Holy Week comprise the Second Act of redemption’s drama. This incarnation of Deity is praised for his miracles, demonstrating power over nature all the while alleviating human suffering. His teaching reveals the selfish inclination with which everyone is born as he calls for repentance. People applaud Jesus as if he were a grand parade marshal (Palm Sunday).
Jesus, an observant Jew, proceeds to celebrate Passover with his closest friends. During the Seder he suggests he will give his life in order to provide the ultimate exodus. He will lead them from a captivity worse than slavery in Egypt (Maundy Thursday).
But Jesus’ popularity is short-lived. By the time palm branches carpeting the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem have turned brown and brittle, the courtroom of public opinion has turned against him. Claiming to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” Jesus is crucified on a Roman cross (Good Friday).
While his critics breathe a sigh of relief, his followers are beside themselves. His lifeless body lies buried. His “truths,” seeming to be nothing but lies. The disciples lock themselves behind closed doors fearing for their lives (Holy Saturday).
But you can’t keep this good man down. Death cannot confine Jesus to a grave. By coming back to life, Jesus proved that his sacrifice for the sin of humanity was complete (Easter).
Much like the repeated holidays of my Jewish neighbors’ calendar, Holy Week for Christ followers has a Groundhog Day repetition. But not without purpose and not without meaning. Christians live in the shadow of that meaning!