Holy Week invites us to deeply reflect on the cross and resurrection. However, the pain of the cross tempts me to skip right to Sunday morning and run with John to the empty tomb. Yet, if I will make myself stand with him at the foot of the cross I know the celebration of Sunday morning will be so much more profound.
The cross is difficult to look at. Not just because of the brutality, but also because we come face to face with our sin and its cost.
It Is Easier to Focus Outward than Inward
It is always easier to focus on the sin of others rather than our own. Those who waved the palm branches and shouted blessings and praise as they welcomed the Messiah to Jerusalem were likely doing just that.
The crowds thronged the city to commemorate Passover. In light of that Exodus theme on which they were focused, they praised Jesus as the Messiah who would save them from Roman oppression, inflicting the punishment Rome deserved. Their focus was on Rome’s sin and they cast Jesus as the bringer of death to their enemies.
As Jesus approached the city, he wept over it and the people’s inability to recognize their true need and his ability to meet it. He came, not to judge the world, but to save it (see John 3:17 and 12:47). Jesus was the Passover Lamb whose blood would protect them from the death they deserved.
They shouted Hosanna (a Hebrew expression meaning save) but had no clue of their true need for salvation from sin rather than from Roman oppression. Like them, when faced with our own sin, we scramble to project, rationalize, or minimize it.
Harmless Housecat or Lethal Lion?
Our culture of relativism has de-clawed and de-fanged sin. Or, rather it has given the illusion that our self-centered actions and attitudes are without consequence.
You can claim the cat has no claws, but as soon as the antagonized animal rakes his paw over your offending hand, you find the claws are very much still present. And it isn’t the cat who is at fault for the bloodshed; responsibility lies squarely on the one who committed the transgression against him.
When we ignore the path set out for us by our Creator and declare we will go our own way and do whatever is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25), we deceive ourselves into thinking the paws of the Lion of the tribe of Judah have no claws. We couldn’t be more wrong.
God’s holiness and justice are incompatible with allowing sin to go unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7). The lion’s paws swipe out to eradicate sin. On the cross, blood drips from the wounds inflicted by our transgressions against God.
But instead of our bodies bearing the wounds, God himself steps into our place. His mercy and love compel him to pay the price on our behalf.
His back receives the stripes of the whip. His hands and feet receive the nails. He drinks the cup of wrath to the last drop.
He died the death due us.
The Rest of the Story… Mercy and Redemption
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end at the cross on Friday. But without his death on the cross on Friday, there can be no meaning in the empty tomb on Sunday.
His death on Friday brings about the mourning of Saturday. At the cross we recognize our poverty, our desperate need, and the cost of meeting our need for forgiveness. As we mourn for what our sin cost our Lord, we find comfort in his mercy and love.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.—Matthew 5:4
As the truth of how much he loves and values us sinks in, we find comfort. We also find freedom and redemption.
Experiencing his forgiveness and mercy, transforms us.
Recognizing we deserved retribution but received redemption causes us to look upon our rebellious ways in a new light. The light of truth.
It is as if we have been stumbling along in the dark through the brambles and briers down in the ditch we have chosen as our path. As the sun rises and sheds light on the pain and struggle our way brings, we turn and joyously and thankfully accept God’s rescuing hand and allow him to set us back on his path.
And the forgiveness and mercy God showed to us fills us with compassion for others.
Instead of desiring retaliation for the wounds they inflict on us as they flail about in the mire, we offer forgiveness. We seek to cast light into their darkness and show them a better way forward.
Saturday’s mourning gives way to the celebration of Sunday’s Resurrection. The tomb is empty, he is risen!
Grab this FREE GIFT before you go!
I’d love to help you find some simple ways to connect with Jesus – not only during this Holy Week, but in your day-to-day life all year round. I’ve created a little cheat sheet with some ideas for how you can:
- Wake Up with Jesus
- Commune While You Commute
- Exercise Your Faith & Your Body
- Tie in Faith to Your Family Conversations
If you’d like me to instantly email you a copy of this cheat sheet, just click the button below and I’ll send it on its way to you!
How about you? How do you prepare for Easter? You can leave a comment by clicking here.