The events of Holy Week are the earliest memories of the Christian church. In bad times and in good, our spiritual ancestors told these stories to talk about God’s power at work in this world.
The stories of Holy Week are vivid and intense, animated by real people:
- The crowd greets Jesus on Palm Sunday with joy and anticipation, but doesn’t see the point in a messiah who has an agenda that’s different from theirs, who won’t solve the problems they think are most important. They fall away and then, perhaps embarrassed to have been “had”, they turn angrily against him.
- Peter, alone and afraid and confused, a small town boy all alone in the big city, has to choose between his loyalty to Jesus and the warmth and security of the little community gathered around the fire in the High Priest’s courtyard. He can stay there by the fire; all he has to do is say, “I do not know him.”
- Pilate has more important things on his plate this Passover. He and Herod are familiar figures then and now: self-serving leaders, casual with the truth and with the lives of the people who have no power. Jesus is a challenge to be dealt with as quickly as possible, rocking as few boats as they can in the process.
- On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and a few other women go to the tomb to anoint Jesus. Worried about the practical, day-to-day details of burial, they find the tomb empty, except for two men in dazzling clothes. The men ask “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
We can follow the story through the week in the readings assigned for each day in the Book of Common Prayer (the complete list is on page 892):
Palm Sunday: Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. Crowds of people line the road ahead of him and line the road with branches cut from trees. “The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!'” (Matthew 21:1-11). We’ll gather at St. Martin’s at 10 to walk with the crowds and listen to the story.
Monday: While Jesus and his disciples are sitting at table in Simon the leper’s house at Bethany, a woman pours a bottle of oil onto Jesus. “She has anointed my body beforehand for its burial…” Jesus says, “wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Mark 14:3-9)
Tuesday: Jesus goes up to Jerusalem and drives everyone who is buying or selling anything out of the Temple. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations,” he says, “But you have made it a den of robbers.” His enemies “kept looking for a way to kill him.” (Mk 11:15-19)
Wednesday: Judas goes to the people who are looking to kill Jesus: “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” (Matthew 26:1-5, 14-25)
Maundy Thursday: Jesus has a Passover meal with his friends. He takes bread and wine: “this is my Body,” he says, “this is my blood.” (Luke 22:14-30) It is both the last meal they will share and the first of many, stretching down to this evening. Please join us at St. Martin’s at 6pm for a service of readings, music, and Holy Communion.
Good Friday: After his arrest, Jesus appears before all the powers that think they hold his fate in their hands – Herod, the High Priest, Pilate. Jesus gives Pilate one last chance: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asks his famous question – it’s our question, too – “What is truth?” Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried. (John 18:1 – 19:42) We’ll celebrate the Good Friday liturgy at St. Martin’s from noon to one.
Holy Saturday: Silence, mostly. Jesus is laid in a tomb, a great stone at the door. “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite.” (Matthew 27:57-66).
Easter Day: As the first day of the week is dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go back to see the tomb. An angel – his appearance like lightning, his clothing white as snow – says, “Do not be afraid … He is not here; for he has been raised.” And Jesus walks with his friends once again. (Matthew 28). Please celebrate with us at St. Martin’s at 10!