There is no Easter without Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. As Christians, we know this and yet, often, we gear ourselves up for a huge Easter celebration and completely dismiss Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and, sometimes, even Lent as a whole.
Easter is much more fun than Maundy Thursday, and it is easier to get excited about a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection than it is to spend time in reflection about his betrayal and death. The flow of Holy Week is important to consider, though, both in our worship together as a community and individually, as followers of Christ. It is a model of what life often looks like and an example of a faith life that is rich and full.
In regular life, the big things we celebrate: weddings, births, anniversaries, achievements - all come through a process that includes struggle and pain. Weddings are the outcome of a relationship between two people that has undergone testing and has endured. The birth of a child takes 9 months, during which the expectant parents can do nothing to hasten the day of celebration, but can only prepare and wait patiently until birth itself comes with great struggle and pain. Anniversaries and achievements are celebrations of relationships or situations in which people have endured both good times and bad, struggle and success. It is a rare anniversary or achievement that celebrates a period of time that has passed without any pain, disappointment or challenges.
During Holy Week we ultimately celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, but first we travel through some challenges and difficulty. We must spend time reflecting on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus on Maundy Thursday. Often in our lives we will feel betrayed by those close to us, we will experience the pain of discovering that someone we care about, and who we thought cared about us, had a different agenda and was willing to hurt us in fulfilling that agenda.
After dealing with the loss of a betrayal, we must then experience the pain and suffering of the cross. We all experience pain in life to some degree or another, particularly when there is something important at stake. Jesus’ death on the cross was one of great suffering, agony, pain, and humiliation….all feelings we would like to ignore in our own lives and do what we can to avoid them. Yet the story of Easter includes them, and so we must remember in our own faith lives to recognize the necessity of times of suffering and agony, pain and humiliation, on our way to the glory and promise of resurrection.
In our own lives, often the struggle comes and we can’t see how it will turn out, we don’t know whether or not the next part will bring joy and celebration. Sometimes the struggles in our own lives don’t end in celebration. During those times we can look to the Easter story and remember that the disciples didn’t know that Easter was coming, they only knew the struggle and pain of betrayal and uncertainty. They did their best to be faithful followers of Christ and we can do the same and we can do it even more boldly because we know how the story ends…we know that after suffering comes joy and that our God has been faithful to keep His promises.