Holy Week from Hell

For Christians, this week is a big one. We began with Palm Sunday, a story of Jesus entering Jerusalem in royal fashion. But things go downhill pretty quickly. Friends fall asleep in spite of his pleas for them to stay awake and pray. Friends betray him and deny him multiple times. He’s tried, convicted, tortured, humiliated, and killed. That’s one hell of a week.

I know there are many layers to the week’s events, and we hold the hope that in spite of all the shit Jesus goes through, God has a plan and purpose. Perhaps the use of holy is to remind us of that. But I wonder what my non-Christian friends think of a week that’s identified as holy yet filled with all of these terrible events. No wonder they are not signing up. The use of holy does seem a little off, as if it’s in denial of the full reality of the week. Jesus anguishes. He prays about wanting to give up.

I know Jesus didn’t give up or walk away. I know what comes on Sunday. But do we miss something if we jump ahead too early to the resurrection? Do we miss the depth of betrayal felt? The fear? The disappointment? The overwhelming despair that must have been always whispering in Jesus’ ear? I wonder if our impulse to skip the tough stuff or to deem it holy then causes us to ignore, wish away, or deny our own tough stuff. Do we assume we should call all things holy, even when they are in fact quite awful? And what about people whose lives never seem to reach Easter? Do we give the subtle (or not-so-subtle) message that those folks somehow missed God or didn’t get “it” right – whatever “it” is?

This week is about being well outside of our comfort zones and pondering tough questions as we navigate the dark. If not one of mine, consider a question that haunts you. We might convince ourselves, on the surface at least, that we are already living in an Easter reality. Based on human behavior, I suspect that is more often the exception than the norm. We have been hurt and rejected, suffered pain and loss, and our behavior often reflects our past wounds. A sanitized faith isn’t going to help us learn to live it better. And it’s certainly not going to get us to a true Easter any faster.

I find many people, not just Christians, want to put a positive spin on something before the dust even settles. By doing so, we might avoid some of the overt pain, but we also avoid maturing emotionally and spiritually. My challenge this week is for us to resist the impulse. Live in the dark with Jesus for the rest of this week. Let’s fully engage the Holy Week from Hell. Let’s assume we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and see what happens. Let’s navigate our fears and disappointments and failures as Jesus navigates his. We’ll have to be more attentive, more honest, and more vulnerable. We’ll need people who can walk this journey with us. We might discover a faith that is able to travel with us wherever life might take us, even to hell and back.