The Holy Week Narrative
written by Rev Gary Heard
The events of Palm Sunday and Holy Week push is in two directions at the same time. As a consequence the church suffers a hint of schizophrenia in relation to its focus - Should the focus be on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the “Hosannas!” of the shouting crowd and on to the triumph of resurrection? Or should our focus be turned to the cross and the unified cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and the journey to the cross? Does Palm Sunday point us to the triumph, or the passion? Is it celebration or warning? The dense reporting of this week in the life of Jesus by the gospel writers pushes us quickly through the events, pressuring us to move on rather than linger with its characters and ponder their dilemmas, their feelings, their dreams.
There are two realities which need to be held together, and in tension as we journey through Holy Week, and they are both essential to our vocation: defeat and victory; despair and triumph; cross and resurrection; desertion and adulation. That many christians skip directly from Palm Sunday through to Resurrection Sunday robs them of the full experience of faith. There are too many human lessons, and insights in the heart of God to take that detour. Here in Holy Week we see God in stark relief, and ourselves.
When we take the direct route from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday, we miss the depth of human struggle and deep pain which permeates the narrative of Holy Week. The events are so profound that Matthew and Mark dedicate a quarter of their writing to this week. Luke and John more so. Here we see triumph mixed with such human realities as betrayal, misunderstanding, false bravado and shattered dreams. When we recognise that the perpetrators are those who laid the foundation for the early church, we are given pause to ask how it is that the foundation of the church gives up so easily? When everything is suddenly on the line, they are found wanting. We do well to ask what causes this, and to recognise that we are not so different from these disciples.
In this week we are reminded how common the deep human struggles are to those who follow Jesus. we suffer as much as other human beings: we deal with family issues, family conflicts, job challenges, relationship hassles and misunderstandings as any ordinary human being. Christians doubt: we wrestle, dialogue, pray, search scriptures, seek guidance – all to find conviction before God. And even then, there is that edge as we walk that way, “Lord, guide me through this…” By allowing the events of the passion to touch both Palm Sunday and Resurrection Day we are reminded of a deeper power – one which embraces these realities and transforms them.
And those who turn their back on Jesus in the critical hour still find redemption and hope. Here the Holy Week narrative offers its greatest hope. Don’t miss it!
March 16, 2008