Holy Week is a season for soul-searching and for contemplating the depth of God’s love. During this week, Christ followers and spiritual inquirers from all around the globe will be reflecting on the events that led to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
The word “holy” is a healthy and meaningful word, though one of the most misunderstood terms in the English language. It does not nearly suggest “spiritual superiority” or “moral perfection.” The word “holy” refers to people or things set apart for a specific and usually religious purpose. In the New Testament the Greek word for holy is “hagios” which means “different,” and it is most often used to underscore practices and lifestyles that correlate to a standard different than the cultural norm.
Why is observing Holy Week important to our preparation for Easter? Here’s a bit of history: The traditional observance of Holy Week seems to have originated in the Christian East, emerging out of the practice of pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Each day of Holy Week is important but at least five days call for specific reflection. Palm Sunday is a day to revisit the royal welcome extended to Jesus by the curious crowd as he entered Jerusalem. On Maundy Thursday believers recall the occasion when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples as he gave them a new mandate to love and serve. Good Friday is a day to review the passion and suffering of Christ on the cross. Holy Saturday (or Easter Even) commemorates the day that Jesus lay in the tomb. And Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, is a festive day to celebrate and proclaim that “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed.”
Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, retired senior minister at Northminster Church in Monroe, Louisiana describes the progressive steps in a meaningful pre-Easter journey: “Holy Week services bring into focus dimensions of discipleship that are missed completely by a simple leap from Palm Sunday to Easter. Worship services which take seriously the truths of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday please God because they challenge a greater commitment and a more comprehensive ministry of compassion among the people of God.”
This year as we navigate through each episode of Holy Week, here are a few suggestions for honest and healthy soul-searching:
- Read the gospel account in John 12-20.
- Listen to the conflicting voices in the crowd.
- Meditate on the cruel injustice of the cross.
- Imagine the passion of Christ’s suffering.
- Think on the hopelessness felt by his disciples.
- Celebrate the hope of the resurrection.
- Renew your commitment to faithfully follow Jesus.
The soul-searching prayer recorded in Psalm 139:23-24 is extremely relevant and probing during Holy Week:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
An intentional and focused journey through Holy Week may deepen our faith and inspire us to follow Jesus with unrelenting resolve.
(Barry Howard serves as leadership coach/consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches. He resides in Pensacola, Florida. You can follow him on Twitter @BarrysNotes.)