What a range of conflicting emotions Holy week can bring. It starts with that procession of palm Sunday, a celebration of Jesus the Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, and ends with a crucifixion. For this centuries observant, while Palm Sunday starts as a procession we know what Good Friday brings: our celebration of Jesus’s entry into that city is tempered by the knowledge of His hanging on a tree. What a contrast that is to the first centuries witnesses experiences though. For them , that original procession was truly a celebration. They had not yet heard those words, crucify Him, crucify Him! To the their aspirations were that of a messiah, one to deliver them from oppression. For us it is a remembrance of that road to Easter. It is a remembrance of a promise, and a peoples hope, and a peoples joy in hearing Christ’s message.
Come today, Good Friday, a contemporary audience is well aware that the Easter celebration is just days away. Thought Good Friday is truly a day of melancholy, that melancholy is tempered by the Joy we can be assured Easter will bring. Our mourning is not only temporary, it ends in a feast. What a difference from those who witnessed Christ on that cross. For them, the jubilation that they had experienced on Jesus entry into the city, was undeniably crushed atop Golgotha. There was no celebration around the corner that they could see. Their despair knew no end.
Sometimes those contrasts between then and now are important. It is important to understand the Joy of Christ in that first century, to understand more completely the message He delivered. It is important to look past the rituals and the calendar, and to look at the Passion itself. It is important to understand why His entrance into that city was celebrated, both then and now. It is important to at least try and comprehend those early Christians hope and joy in Christ’s gospel.
After approaching their experience with the good news of Jesus Christ, it also is important to imagine Good Friday as they experienced it. Theirs was without knowledge of the resurrection, without knowing what was about to happen. The depth of their grief give scale to the depth of Christ love. It is by looking at that grief that they did not know would end that gives wonder about that first Easter. For them simply praying that their grief would pass was a tall order, Easter was a wonder beyond imagination. That wonder of Christ truly risen is one we too should witness, one we should keep our eyes and hearts open to. None of this week should have begun or end as simply another day on a calendar. It is a week of extreme sorrow, and of extreme joy, and of extreme wonder. It is a week to truly be witnessed and experienced. It should not be simply observed.