Text study on Matthew 26:14-27:66
Lectionary text for April 17, 2011
Thinking back over my life, I remember many birthday parties. Although I stopped having annual birthday parties during my teenage years, I was fortunate to have a celebration on my 30th birthday with family and friends.
People love celebrations, which is why I think Jesus’ going to Jerusalem was such a big deal!
I love to imagine the celebration that Jesus experienced when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. People were happy to see him, they were cheering, shouting out his name — they thought his journey had ended with his triumphant return to Jerusalem.
People were happy to celebrate. I imagine that the feeling in Jerusalem would compare to winning the Super Bowl!
But, then we realize that the celebration led to the cross. It is like waking up on your birthday and realizing that no one really cares about you or your birthday.
The hope of celebration quickly shifts to despair.
Palm Sunday leads into the journey of Holy Week that travels through the suffering and death of the cross. During Holy Week, we remember the Last Supper, when Christ broke bread for the last time with his disciples.
We enter into the story of Jesus’ death on the cross and leave the church in silence. We move from the darkness of Good Friday to the bright celebration of the risen Christ on Easter morning.
I believe that most people do not want to attend services during Holy Week because they do not like the feelings that this journey through the cross gives them. It is not a joyous time in the church; there are no brass quartets, bells choirs or mass vocal choirs making music of praise.
But this is the journey of a Christian. We might not like the feeling of the journey, but without the journey through the cross, we would not have the tremendous joy of the resurrection on Easter.
The journey through the cross to resurrection — the great Three Days of Holy Week — is central to our lives of faith. Through this journey, we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us fulfilled in the resurrection.
Easter would not be the same if we worshiped together on Palm Sunday and completely ignored the richness of the whole journey of the week, despair and all. It would be like having a birthday cake but no one with whom to celebrate.
How do you balance the joys and the sorrows during your Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter Sunday journey?
How does the full journey of Christ from celebration to death to resurrection shape your life of faith?
Joe McGarry is the pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Baldwinsville, N.Y. He is currently vice president of the board for Vanderkamp Center, a Lutheran/Presbyterian camp in Cleveland, N.Y. He lives in Baldwinsville, with his wife, Katie, and their two children, Logan and Addyson.