For those that may not be Christians or who may be very conservative Christians, tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week. Each of the days represents some main event in the final week of Jesus’ life. For example, Thursday evening is the time churches commemorate the establishment of the Lord’s Supper/Communion/Eucharist. Friday is the day we remember when Jesus was crucified. Sunday, of course then, is Easter or Resurrection Day.
For 18 years Palm Sunday began a very difficult week as a minister/pastor. Unlike Advent/Christmas, Holy Week is very complex. For Advent and Christmas there is heightened awareness of waiting for God’s most profound entry into the history of humanity. But the focus is on a birth, a special birth to be sure, but a quiet scene in a manger.
Holy Week wore me out! Palm Sunday is when Jesus is welcomed in the same way a victorious Roman General was welcomed into a conquered city. Palm branches were laid down as the General rode his white stead into the town to take possession in the name of the Roman empire. Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a donkey and yet the crowds placed palm branches on the path ahead of him as they would have for a conquering General. Holy Week ends with Jesus, having been crucified, but before the Resurrection on Sunday, going into hell on Saturday to proclaim freedom to those held in captivity there. Intertwined in all of this is Jesus’ arrest, trial, mockery, and condemnation by the same crowds that welcomed him into Jerusalem on palm branches not even a week before. Meanwhile on Tuesday we take note that he entered the temple and “cleansed” it of those making huge profits from others who came to the temple to offer a sacrifice to God praying for the good of whatever was on their hearts.
Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Episcopalians, Anglicans, and a few other protestant denominations are aware of all this and make a commitment to mark this week for the people in their congregations. Many ministers “simplify” all of this drama by focusing only on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday when Jesus’ instituted the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. That’s a broad enough spectrum of emotion to cover for one week. It was an emotionally tiring week for me as a minister for all those years.