Don’t rush me to the empty tomb! Don’t skip too quickly from His triumphant entry into the City to His glorious resurrection. I understand the significance. I understand how amazing both are. I am in awe of Palm Sunday. The beauty and celebration of our King entering Jerusalem. It is without a doubt an amazing story, from the donkey being exactly where it was supposed to be (Matthew 21:2) to the celebration of the crowd that would turn on Him in just a precious few days (Matthew 27:22). What disturbs me is when people jump from Happy Palm Sunday to Happy Easter. Wait a minute. You skipped a beat.
Where did my Garden go? I need my time in the Garden! Where did Good Friday go? Where is my dark weekend? I actually need that time.
Our church has a Maundy Thursday service. It is my second favorite service next to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I even prefer it over Easter. I find I need a Maundy Thursday service to keep my year in balance. It’s a dark service which ends quietly and reverently. It leaves you in that evening place, with Christ facing the weekend to come. It has one rule… all of the music is in a minor key. I didn’t realize it had this rule until someone played a happy song. Apparently I am pretty fastidious about that rule. Don’t rush me to the empty tomb, let me linger in the darkness of the evening.
I don’t like to be rushed through the weekend without sufficient time in the Garden. I have to face the reality of my own selfishness, my own failures. Like Peter, I am sure that even if my Master begged me, I would have failed Him. (Matthew 26:36-45) I would have failed to see the magnitude of the moment until after it passed.
Without proper time in the Garden I think too highly of myself. I afford myself grace too easily or, the most egregious of all, I would allow myself mercy as if bearing the Cross was easy. I will sanitize the weekend if we skip from Palm Sunday to Easter without a second thought; happy to happy. I need time to remember the amazing and scandalous gift that was given to me. I need time to add weight to all of it, including my culpability in the matter… again. I need time for it to break my heart. There will be another year of sin that Christ has paid for, much to my dismay. There is another year to lay at his feet in sorrow.
Now I will be the first one to fall for Satan’s tricks and try and pick up the prior year’s sin. I know I should not touch that. Christ remembers it no more (Hebrews 8:12). He removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). That sin is paid for, dwelling on it, adding shame and guilt serves no one but the enemy. Now if the Holy Spirit is asking me to repent of an ongoing sin or I need to ask someone for forgiveness, that is different, but shame and guilt are tools of the enemy. He is just trying to weaken the most amazing gift that has ever been given. If he can add a little guilt, perhaps it will tarnish that gift a little. I sometimes have to work hard to not allow Satan to diminish all that has been done for me. This weekend is about facing new sins. Hopefully not sins which are chronic ones.
I need time in the Garden to right my heart. I need to face the dark and scary side of the Garden to see that it is also filled with love. I need to face that horrifying and brutal Cross to see that it carries mercy and grace. I need to look into that final resting place and face death to see that Christ had the last Word and it was love. I have to see His isolation, betrayal and how He bore my sins. I have to stand and face the weekend, the Cross, the Tomb, and all that it has to offer. I have to un-sanitize the horror so I can fully appreciate the beauty.
Then, and only then, I am ready to celebrate on Easter. Then and only then am I ready to say…
He is risen. He is risen indeed!
By Vicki L. Pugliese