In the haze of holy week there will be, without doubt, many reasons to lose focus on the Passion of Christ.
In recently memory, there have been scandals, political turmoil, theological disputes turned into public brouhahas in the days leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
Given the present political climate and the regular barrage of scandals, it is nearly unquestionable that there will be a scandal.
Often, news outlets choose to post articles arguing against the historicity of Jesus. Theologically liberal denominations publish posts on how, if Christ’s death was ordained by God for our redemption, it would be tantamount to cosmic child abuse. Others, like the book I discussed in a recent post, will argue that Christ’s death on the cross could not have paid for our sin because they think it has negative ethical outcomes. (Spoiler: The book does not do well at making this argument.)
In our constant battle for joy in holiness we are beset on all sides by the world, the flesh and the devil. There are few times this is as apparent as in the days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Watch this week. You’ll see a hundred attempts to derail your focus and distract from this holiest of weeks.
I’m neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I would bet a cookie that there is going to be a significant attack on Christianity this week.
That’s not superstition, it’s an acknowledgement that the last thing Satan wants is for Christians to revel in the wonder, mystery, and power of the resurrection. There is little that makes Christians more effective in living out the gospel than being enraptured by the miracle of Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection in our place.
Perhaps the worst thing about the disruption to the possibility of our spiritual advancement in this week of particular focus is that we will allow it to happen. Or, at least, we will take few measures to present it.
Make Resurrection Sunday Bigger
Our culture has turned Christmas into a blowout holiday. Crass commercialism is creeping into everything, with stores pushing junk months ahead of previously little-celebrated holidays. But during Christmas we do a billion things to keep in mind that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Our culture loves Christmas because they have turned the incarnation into a chance to make money, eat rich foods, and hang out with family in tacky sweaters. Christians have gotten sucked into many of the bad aspects, even as we celebrate the goodness of Christ’s incarnation.
For most of us, however, the celebration of Christ’s atoning work on the cross gets a smaller budget, less build up, and a shorter celebration.
I would argue that Resurrection Sunday should be the pinnacle of the church calendar. That we should use the Lent season (with or without some of the trappings) to build to the glorious heights of the most important hours in the history of the universe: when Christ—the spotless lamb of God—took the penalty for our sin in our place. This is better accomplished at Easter since it lacks the commercial trappings of Christmas.
The atonement could not have taken place without the incarnation, which is why celebrating Christ’s birth is a good thing to do. But without the atonement the incarnation is incomplete. Christ’s work on the cross completed the work he did in this life. He lived a perfect life, showed people what the new heavens and new earth will look like, and pointed people toward the renewed creation that will be finally inaugurated when he comes again. Christ’s resurrection gives testimony that his work on the cross—his sacrifice for our sin—was accepted by God.
This is the capstone moment in Christianity and ought to bear the brunt of our interest and celebration.
Defend the Holy Week
However, when we begin to recognize the importance of the resurrection, the world, our flesh, and the devil will get in the way of being enraptured by its power.
If you don’t believe me, try meditating on the resurrection for a few minutes. The phone will ring, a kid will have a crisis, you’ll decide you desperately need to check social media.
Don’t be surprised that even if you set aside some time this holy week to focus on the cross, to participate in contemplation of the atonement, or to spend hours with your brothers and sisters in Christ that distractions will kick in.
There will be a scandal that directly pokes at the Christian faith. The media will release articles with conspiracy theories to convince the people you are sharing Christ with that the gospel is really fake news. Something will arise in the political sphere that seems designed to take your eyes of the cross. Your car will break down. Whatever.
It’s coming. Defend the Holy Week. Be prepared for battle.
Share the Good News
This is one of those weeks that it’s easier to have meaningful gospel conversations than others, because people are talking about Easter. Use the time wisely.
Skip over the political jabber and skip to the cross. Explain what Easter really means and why it has very little to do with bunnies, marshmallow chicks, or oodles of chocolate.
You would be surprised, I think, how few non-Christians actually understand the gospel. The Passion week is an excellent time to bridge those gaps, explain the real meaning of the cross, and point people to the life that can only come through Christ.
Don’t get distracted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Preach Christ so that others might know him and celebrate new life even as we remember how the way was paved for us to share in that new life, too.