But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Luke 24:1-8: (ESV)
I’m sure we can all agree this has been an unconventional Holy Week, but I will say that I am thankful for that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not thankful for COVID-19, and I join you in praying for those affected, and for a rapid cure. However, I am thankful for the chance to see God at work, and to gain a new perspective on how we as believers are to engage this week. Holy Week was not something I really understood until I was an adult, and even then, really never until I was a parent. I can vividly remember when the father of one of my students in Raleigh, upon hearing that Christa was pregnant with our oldest, told me “I never understood how much God loves us until I had a child. I’m really excited for you guys!”
That conversation impacted my view of parenthood significantly. He was completely right, in my own experience, and my understanding of the pain of the cross and the sacrifice made for us changed dramatically. In a similar way, the current state of the world has informed my thinking of what this week must have been like for Jesus and the disciples, over 2,000 years ago. I can imagine the disciples and the two Marys hiding, mourning, and terrified throughout Friday night and Saturday, not knowing what it meant to be a follower of Jesus still living under Roman rule, or if they were destined for the same fate as their Lord. I can imagine Peter and his shame and regret, thinking that his denial of Christ was to be his final interaction with Him. I can also imagine how they finally felt brave enough on Sunday morning to venture out of the city to try to serve their Lord, even after his death.
Headed to the tomb, I am sure the furthest thought from their mind was the fulfillment of David’s psalm - “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” Psalm 30:5 - or that there was any joy to be found that day. They were still mired in a long night of sorrow.
Like the Marys and the disciples so long ago, I think we are also in a long night of sorrow right now. We all know someone who has been affected by this pandemic, and maybe we are affected as well. We know what the job market looks like, we all understand the reality of work and school being remote, and we feel the sadness of missing our friends and loved ones. However, thanks to the first Holy Week, we also all know this: Joy comes in the morning, even, and perhaps especially, after a long night of sorrow. This is the joy of Holy Week - we know how it ends, and we know who’s on the throne. What a gift to have that perspective on this current crisis, and what a privilege to have Holy Week as our example and our hope.
As easy as it may be to dwell on the present sorrows of this world, the troubles of the present are best answered by the Angel’s question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen.” Christ has come through death, conquered the grave, and He is Lord of all! Hallelujah! This week we celebrate and know that we serve a living God. I hope you are able to find new ways to celebrate and reflect on the joy of the resurrection, and I wish you all a very blessed Easter weekend.
I grew up in the Lutheran church, and one of my favorite parts of the liturgy is what we said on Easter. I loved the chance to hear the joy and conviction in the voices of the congregation. So, do your best to hear these closing words, said with vigor and joy: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.