By R. Kevin Johnson
During the past few weeks, Christian churches around the world have been engaging the scriptures during Lent. This season will lead to the commemoration of Jesus’ death and burial, and to the celebration of his divine resurrection. As Palm Sunday nears, here are some suggestions of how Christians might best spend their devotional time during Holy Week.
First, in the days leading up to Easter, Christians should spend time considering how to prepare for the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of humanity. It is imperative to remember that there is no Easter without a Good Friday.
I grew up in a Baptist church where much fanfare and celebration took place on Easter Sunday. However, there was no special thought given to the events of the week before Easter. We believed and proclaimed “Christ is Risen!,” but we never visited him at the cross or in the grave. It wasn’t until seminary that I belonged to a Baptist congregation whose pastors helped me to notice this missing link.
Second, Holy Week should be a special time for drawing near to God by extraordinary acts of penitence, charity and religious devotion, and by fasting and abstinence from all things that tend to draw the heart from God. Goals during this time should be to deepen the religious life, to purify the heart from sin and to be drawn more closely to the light of the Savior.
Third, Holy Week is a time to revisit the realization that we are all in need of the Savior to enter into our existence with his transforming presence causing us to train our hearts to be unyielding and pure, accepting no substitution from the truth: that Jesus Christ is our eternal hope.
We understand the purpose of our faith in the light that illuminates from the cross of Christ. At once it blinds us, and it exposes both good and evil. Ironically, the former allows us to see clearly, while the latter leaves us vulnerable to the scrutiny of those who are still searching for light in darkness. It also illuminates our condition before the Lord and allows us to become introspective so that we can seek forgiveness for our sins and focus on those things that are true and good and right in the sight of the Lord.
The Christian hope depends largely upon Christ’s lordship in our lives. When we make Christ the Lord of our lives — that is, the Lord of all things concerning us — we allow him to control the future and we trust that he will bring us to his intended destination. Our eternal future rests in the hands of Christ.
While we live in hope because of Christ, we also have the ability to die in hope. It is a blessed thing to live at peace because we know that our eternity is secure in Christ. It is a wonderful thing to share the joy of our salvation with other believers and to be able to encourage one another in the mutual hope we have in Christ.
When we walk through Holy Week and through the day that Jesus was crucified and through the day that he laid in the tomb, we do so witnessing miraculous events and being ever-drawn toward his light. We are walking through the process of becoming increasingly Christ-like.
Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they were dead, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
That assurance is eternal.