All who have experienced soul-ripping grief at the death of a loved one would agree that time seems to stop.
Nights are endless, days drag like boulders pulled by a plow. Saying goodbye produces its own unutterable pain, but the days between death and funeral and burial—though perhaps filled with practical details—seem hours longer than the actual twenty-four. Although we may dread the more public acts of farewell, there is the incongruous something within us that cries to “just get it over with.”
Could this be similar to why we joyfully anticipate the glory of Easter Sunday but do our best to ignore—or at the very least de-emphasize—the emotionally-draining events of Holy Week? To shop for colorful spring clothing is far more satisfying than symbolically wrapping a rough towel around our waists to humbly serve others as Jesus did at the washing of feet. What joy in preparation for a sumptuous Easter Sunday family reunion meal while how meager—and heart-rending—to contemplate the meaning of the bread, wine and bitter herbs that Jesus and his friends ate just before going out to the Mount of Olives. Triumphant is the music of “Christ, the Lord, Is Risen Today.” Somber are the notes of Braham’s Requiem.
New clothes, good food with friends and family and uplifting music are all rightful celebrations of the resurrection, what the Apostle Paul preaches as the bedrock of our faith. But I wonder how much more meaningful would be our Easter joy if we first took the time and concerted effort to walk thoughtfully through Jesus’ last days, if we asked God to let us more deeply glimpse his agony of relinquishment in Gethsemane, if we wept over his human cry, “I am thirsty.”
Many churches of a more liturgical nature practice what is known as the Easter Vigil where individuals gather in the darkness of Saturday night to read scripture and contemplate the sadness that surrounded Jesus’ followers after his death and burial, a darkness that represents all the meanings of darkness: hidden and secret sins, the darkness of the world and of our hearts. At a point soon after midnight, one candle is lit to symbolize Christ’s resurrection and members of the congregation light their own small candles from the larger one. Those who have participated in such a service of remem-brance and celebration relate how their view of Easter has been forever changed.
While this may not be practical or possible for all, let me encourage you to not avoid the pain of walking with Jesus through the days between Palm Sunday and Easter. I assure you that the sunrise of Easter will never be more glorious!
by Marilyn Ehle
More Easter Reading:
Who’s Got the Body? A short, documented examination of evidences for Jesus’ resurrection. By Rusty Wright
The Power of Resurrection – by William S. Stoddard
Touched by the Risen Lord by Elfrieda Nikkel