Holy Week 2020: In Search of Relevance to a World in Crisis
April 8, 2020
It’s no secret to many that Holy Week 2020 will be a very different season for most if not all of us. With several countries and cities of the world under lockdown, most churches are closed and no gathering is allowed because of the pandemic. The passion of the Christ, the seven last words, and the crucifixion of Jesus will not be heard being preached from the pulpit for now but most likely through online means. The “stations of the cross” where Roman Catholics usually flock to at this time of the year will be empty and will probably be transformed into “virtual stations.”
As a nation that’s considered to be predominantly “Christian,” the Philippines has been known for its people’s religious practices and faithful observation of various rites during the Holy Week. And for the most part, that fervor will not be any less this year. Most people will likely participate in many of these activities online.
But while these religious rituals are being observed, there are those who are suffering from the effects of COVID-19. People are dying. Healthcare professionals are franticly working 24/7. And supposed bread-winners are desperately looking for bread in an empty basket. So we might ask, “What is the relevance of the Holy Week to a world that is reeling from the COVID-19 crisis?” How could we even think of, say, celebrating Easter with everything that is going on around us?
Let’s look at the Bible from the very words of Jesus Himself on why He came. You can read John 10:1-41 to get the whole context. But here we will focus on verse 10, where Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NASB)
A life that is abundant. Quite far from what many of us are experiencing today, don’t you think?
Well, to begin with, if we look closely at the context of this passage, we will find that Jesus wasn’t really talking about the abundant life that some of us might be expecting – health, wealth, career, fame, etcetera, etcetera. He was speaking to the Pharisees who were annoyed because they had just heard Him affirm His deity (in chapter 9). He then went on to liken those who do not enter through Him as “the Door” to the sheepfold (John 10:7) but rather go through some other way as thieves and robbers, insinuating that the Pharisees are such, who steal, kill, and destroy (the sheep). But He, Jesus, the Door that leads to eternal life, came to give life (to the sheep). But the life He gives is no ordinary life; it is an abundant life. It is a life that overflows with hope (Romans 3:15); with peace (Philippians 4:6-7; John 16:33; Romans 14:17); and with joy (John 17:13; Psalm 16:11; Romans 14:17).
This is the kind of life that we can have through Jesus Christ, one that transcends the troubles of this world, including the problems we’re experiencing today because of the pandemic. It’s not that He will necessarily change our situation and immediately put an end to the virus and everything will be okay. But this hope, peace, and joy come from the assurance that despite the horrible things that are taking place, because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, a bright future ahead has been made available to us. A future without pain, without suffering, without tears.
But we need to enter through “the door,” who is Christ. What does this mean? This is where the events represented by the Holy Week come in. You see, the Bible is clear that because of sin, the world and everyone in it, are all doomed to perish in eternal damnation. Yes, all of us. Try as we might, no matter how hard, it’s not possible for us to work our way out of it. And God knows it. So He was the One who made a way. And it took the death of His only begotten Son on the cross, the sinless Lamb of God taking our place and paying the penalty for our sins. He then rose from the dead on the third day, conquering death and sin so that we too might live and be with Him in a glorious future. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans, God showed how much He loves us in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And if we enter “the Door” by sincerely and truly repenting of our sins and making Him Lord of our lives, we will become part of His sheepfold, and live in abundant hope, peace, and joy in the assurance of eternal life.
This is what Holy Week is all about. And it is as relevant today during this crisis as it has been for two thousand years and until He returns to gather His sheep and bring them to glory. So don’t observe the Lenten season just by going through rituals. Give your life to Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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