Holy Week climaxes with the four day observance/celebration from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday. We follow the events of the last day of Jesus’ life, His death, and His resurrection as He finishes the work His Father sent Him to do. On Maundy Thursday He celebrates the Passover as expected of all 1st century Jews. Jesus washes the feet of His disciples. Even more He institutes the Lord’s Supper, as the new covenant, which becomes effective upon His death. Good Friday brings before the world the extent of God’s love, when Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). The great reversal of history comes with the shock of the stone rolled away, and the empty tomb.
How do we live in light of those events? In a sense, we live through each of them every week. Our lives as Christians in this world are still covered with the reality of death, suffering, pain, separation, what we commonly call the theology of the cross. As Christians we experience the effects of sin, destruction, and death. But we also know that Jesus’ victory over death means that the glory of heaven awaits us when we die, true glory, our future reality.
Unfortunately some expect, and even demand, that we have all of the future glory now. “If you are sick or not healed, it is because you don’t have enough faith.” “If you do not experience wealth in this life, then there is something wrong with you.” This approach has been called the theology of glory. Sounds wonderful, except real life intrudes into that kind of wishful thinking. Persecution and suffering for the Christian is to be expected in this life, as we wait the true glory of heaven upon our death or Jesus’ return at the end of time.
Consider these passages from the New Testament related to this topic (there are many others in the New Testament):
[Jesus said:] “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
[Paul writes:] “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” (Philippians 1:29)
But we understand our current life of trials and suffering from the perspective of the empty tomb. As Paul wrote:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)
And the mystery of the Lord’s Supper by which we receive the true body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins sustains us in the deepest valleys of suffering. We celebrate with it being a foretaste of the feast to come in the final glory of heaven. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb…” (Revelation 19:9).
May we always live in light of the four days from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday.