The Story-Arc of Holy Week

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Depending on your faith journey and where you choose to worship, you may or may not observe Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I’ve grown up in churches that offer worship services for both days along the journey to Easter. Maundy Thursday observes the night Jesus sits with his disciples in the upper room for their last supper together. He washes their feet in an act of service and gives the new commandment to love one another as he loved us. Good Friday marks the day Jesus’ crucifixion. Each of these days has been incredibly (and increasingly) poignant to me in a way I’m just now realizing.

In writer-speak, these days allow me to see the arc of the greatest story ever told.

The resolution (“happy ending”) of Easter morning’s empty tomb are masterfully constructed by the tension rising on Maundy Thursday around the Last Supper and climax of Good Friday on the cross of Calvary.

We cannot weep tears of joy alongside the women at the empty grave without having wept tears of agony at the foot of the cross. There’d be no context.

Imagine yourself reading the story of Jesus like you would a novel:

By Maundy Thursday you’re invested in Jesus’ ministry and the lives of his followers. You’ve seen him work miracles and question corrupt authority. By the time he reaches Jerusalem he’s a hero to some and a villain to others. Big things have been foreshadowed. Prophesies are being realized. The excitement of his entry to the city is marred by the confusion of accusations, arrests, and betrayals. Our hero is mocked, tortured, and in a horrific climax, left to die an excruciating death. The cries of our heart match the cries of the crowd, if you are who you say you are then save yourself.  Not because we doubt,  but because we want to see good win. This can’t be the way it ends.

If you’re a reader like me, you swallow the lump in your throat and look to see how many pages are left. Surely it won’t end this way. Surely.

But there is no resurgence of a super power, no secret weapon that pulls our hero out of danger just before his last breath. In an age of Marvel Comic movies, we expect good to win, but are left overwhelmed by defeat.

We can’t be overwhelmed by the sacrifice of Jesus’ death for our sins if we aren’t first overwhelmed by the enormity of his suffering. 

In cinematic brilliance, the earth responds to his death. Darkness settles in. The ground shakes and rocks split open. In the temple curtain tears in two. And we gasp in horror at the words, “It is finished.” We don’t understand.

Like the women holding vigil at the foot of the cross, we are left to wonder what is to happen now. We are without the King we knew and loved. This is not the ending we expected.

But, faithful one, flip to the next chapter. 

Three days of mourning. Three days of hopelessness. And, for the few faithful women, three days of duty at the grave of their King. Only, what’s this? Does the tomb look different than when they left yesterday? Yes, the stone has moved. Something’s different.

He is gone. Not just gone, RISEN, having left behind the linen cloth that bound him in death! Just as he said he would. He appears to them, whole and victorious.

A redemptive, happy ending. But the story does not end here, friend. The story continues with you and me, those who came before us and all who will come after. As cinematic and awe-inspiring as it is, the story of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday is non-fiction. It happened on this same earth we walk today. There was a seat for you at the Last Supper, a turn for you at the basin where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. There was a place for you among the spectators at the cross. The empty tomb had room for you, too, to witness with confusion and cautious hope the changed story. And among the weary disciples, Jesus would have spoken to you, too, as the Risen Lord.

You are part of the story, beloved. Do you know that? Do you feel the power of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday?

Without these days Easter morning is an empty celebration of an empty space.

With these days fresh on our minds, Easter morning is an overwhelming joy-filled cry of thanksgiving from deep within our souls because our hero lives. The Light won over the darkness. You and I are no longer slaves to our sin. The pain, suffering, and despair of the days leading to Sunday make it the greatest story ever told…the greatest story that wasn’t even a story at all.

He died for you. He rose for you. He lives for you now. How does the story continue? Only you can write the next chapter. I’d be so incredibly blessed to have the chance to talk to you about any of this if you have questions. Don’t hesitate to ask.

Happy Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. I pray these days are full and rich and life-giving.


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TODAY’S TWEETABLES:

The Story-Arc of Holy Week — TWEET THIS!

In writer-speak, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday allow us to see the story arc of the greatest story ever told. — TWEET THIS!

We cannot weep tears of joy alongside the women at the empty grave without having wept tears of agony at the foot of the cross. — TWEET THIS!

Without Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Easter morning is an empty celebration of an empty space. — TWEET THIS!

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