“Holy Week, the seven days before the feast of Easter, from Palm Sunday morning to Holy Saturday night, is charged with meaning. It is a microcosm of Jesus‟ public life seen in bas-relief. All of its components are there–the population at large, the temple priests and their concern for orthodoxy, the prophetic words of Jesus and the political concerns of Roman officials for the social upheavals they feared could come from them, the arrest and isolation of Jesus, and the fears and confusion of His followers. Condensed into one week, all these elements in the life of Jesus are laid bare for all to see. It is a dark week, a week heavy with the intensity of the drama among them.” Joan Chittester
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24 lays bare for us the reality that the death of death actually brings forth life and resurrection for all to taste. Reading through the Gospel narratives of the last week of Jesus‟ life, time slows down, the frenetic events leading to the crucifixion of Christ increasingly being laid bare for all to witness, no detail spared. It‟s as if Jesus was deliberately setting us up for the mystery to come: a broken and scarred body, defeated in front of all, actually initiating the influx of life itself. As Gungor mournfully sings, “Like the waters flooding the desert. Like the sunrise showing all things. Where it comes flowers grow. Lions sleep, gravestones roll. Where death dies all things life.” (When Death Dies).
From the heights of praise echoing through the streets on Sunday, to the betrayal of close friends on Thursday, to the crushing weight of despair on Friday, to the silence of grief on Saturday, Holy Week crescendos and falls through the hours, simultaneously the pinnacle of hope and the pit of hopelessness. Through it all stands Jesus resolute, unwavering in his willingness to suffer unto death so that death itself may die.
The writer of Hebrews gives poetic language to the weight of this week, exhorting all to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful man, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:2-4).
Holy Week is a crescendoing collection of days built one upon the other, set apart from the other 51, for the express purpose of celebrating the death of death, once and for all. For it is only when death dies, that all things live. Welcome to When Death Dies, 3rd Place. The hour is now upon us. A kernel of wheat is falling to the ground, dying for all to live. The harvest of seeds is coming, all things alive…when death dies.
“Jesus will die, yes, but not only. There is more than death to come. All in all, it is a week that brings us face-to-face with the great question, why must this happen? What is all this suffering about? But deep down inside of us, we already know what the life of Jesus and the days of Holy Week confirm: there are some things worth living for, even if we find ourselves having to die for them as well.” ~Joan Chittester