I used to say it every year when I was the pastor of a local church. As we were in this season of Lent and about to move into Holy Week, I would always share with the congregations I served my belief that we cannot fully appreciate and engage Easter and the Easter message unless we go through the events leading up to its celebration. I still believe that and have found it to be true in my personal life and walk with God.
This is an incredibly special week coming up. It is our opportunity to walk through the events of that last week in Jesus’ life and experience in some manner the power of his actions. We need to sit at that last supper, putting ourselves in the place of those confused or oblivious disciples. Feeling the fear they felt even as we observe Jesus’ confidence and control in the garden on the Mt. of Olives.
We need to stand in the courtyard with that cocky disciple Peter, who was so sure only hours before that he would never abandon or deny Jesus, who was now swearing his denial to a little servant girl. We need to hear the swelling crowd shouting back at Pilate, “Not him, Barabbas!” and listen to those who laid down Hosanna palms, screaming “Crucify! Crucify!” And more than anything, perhaps we must spend time at the cross.
Regardless of our particular theological bent, we need to gather and look into the face of God incarnate offering himself for us, proclaiming in the face of unspeakable violence, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Then we can come to Easter having walked through the trauma, having experienced again the whole of the story of that week, and sing as one, grateful and humbled, “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!”