HOLY WEEK

HOLY WEEK

As this is the week that the Church observes Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and as that event is the most significant in mankind’s history, I’ll interrupt the topic I was engaged in to observe it here as well. Although I am basically a Protestant (the Church my wife and I attend is Baptist), I have a running dialogue with a dear friend, a Catholic priest. Today we shared our own thoughts on Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The traditional Catholic and Episcopalian re-enactment of the Holy Week is quite moving, as was my friend’s description of if. I’d like to share with you below some highlights of our reflection on this terrible and blessed event.

I have a favorite hymn, penned by Charles Wesley, that starts with the line And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? with the first stanza ending in Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my Lord, shouldst die for me? We sing this hymn often in our Church services, and it remains moving to me every time we sing it.

We shared a conversation between Earl Cook and his wife Joyce that I lifted from Chapter 24 of my novel Buddy. Earl is telling Joyce about a book he’d read, written by Dominican Fr. Gerald Vann around the close of World War II.

“’The book was called Mary’s Answer for our Troubled Times. Like the title suggests, he wrote about Mary’s own suffering while Jesus was on the cross. I can’t say that Father Vann was always Scripturally accurate down to the last degtail in all he wrote about Mary, but I do think that he captured the essence of Scripture in a magnificent way in presenting a stunning demonstration of nobility on Mary’s part during that time. It deeply moved me.’

“’So share it.’

“’He talked of Mary’s concentration of gaze and rapt, exclusive focus on Jesus as He endured His suffering. He contrasted the mutual sorrow-laden silence between her and Jesus with the noisier, more self-serving lamentations of the other women, developing a picture of Mary of stoic determination. She had a task, Vann claimed. This task involved the double sorrow of the mother as she watched the torments of the Son, and of the girl who flinched at the sight of naked evil and cruelty destroying innocence and beauty and love. She remained silent, because it was not for her to find an emotional outlet for her grief, for she is here because of Him, to fulfill her vocation as mother by helping Him to fulfill His as Savior. In her, as Vann claims, there are two conflicting agonies: the longing to save Him from His agony and the effort to help Him to finish His work. It is the second that she must do, giving Him to the world on the Cross as she has given Him to the world in the stable.’”

As Chapter 22 of Genesis so vividly points out, our Holy Father also shared in Jesus’ suffering. As I visualize it, God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac was a depiction of the Father’s own terrible grief in abandoning His Son on the cross as He ultimately prevented Abraham from doing.

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

“And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spoke unto Abraham, his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they sent both of them together. And they came to a place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac, his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh, as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.”

I believe that we have another name of that place, Golgotha. When Abraham lifted up his eyes on the third day and saw the place afar off, I also believe that he saw the resurrected Jesus. Note also that Abraham had Isaac carry the wood that was to sacrifice him, just as Jesus was commanded to carry His cross. Understanding that Isaac strongly represents Jesus, you may wish to read Genesis 24 regarding the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, and see, in Ephesians 5:31 and 32, who Rebekah represents.

That the ram represented Jesus as the Lamb of God is beyond question. This association between Jesus and a sacrificial lamb is observed today by Messianic Christians who, as both Jews and Christians, see the special meaning of the Jewish Passover as intended by God. The first account of the Passover is in Exodus 12:

“And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of heir fathers, a lamb for an house: and if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats. And ye shall keep it unto the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with the fire and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs shall they eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; its head with its legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it: with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

“And this day shall be unto you a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.”

Jesus was crucified on the Passover day of preparation. Jews throughout the world continue to observe Passover, which this year falls on sundown of April 22.

Have a wonderful observance of this great event, both this week according to the Church calendar, and on April 22 according to the Jewish calendar.

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