Last Sunday’s message in church was “Why Holy Week Makes Me Smile”*. It was an intriguing title considering the traditional mood of many people during the Lenten season.
When my siblings and I were growing up, our elders admonished us not to be playful during this time—it’s not the season to be jolly. We were told God is dead every year during Holy Week. Jesus was crucified for the sins of men two thousand years ago, and every year we remember that sacrifice.
Before the advent of cable TV and Internet, we were left with no other forms of entertainment from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday. Television shows were limited to movies like Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston or Jesus of Nazareth with the somber-looking Robert Powell. There’s also an airing of the traditional washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday and the local Passion Play called Senakulo on Good Friday. But we all celebrate come Easter because then we would have a barrage of TV shows to watch.
I also think that many of us are secretly unhappy during Holy Week because we have to give up a lot of things. We give up certain kinds of food and drinks. For a few weeks or a few days, we even give up watching TV or doing something that we enjoy or can not do without. I won’t be surprised if some of us would give up Facebooking at least for a day during this time.
Should we be unhappy during Holy Week? The preacher last Sunday gave four convincing reasons why Holy Week should make us happy. And the first of this is because Christ’s death and resurrection was a response of Jesus Christ to God the Father. It was God the Father’s plan to send Jesus to earth. Ephesians 5:12 says, “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” God gave Jesus Christ to man. Jesus Christ gave Himself first to God and then to us.
Christ’s death and resurrection was also a redemption from the fallen state of man. Admit it, we have all missed God’s standard and have fallen away from Him. But through Jesus’ death on the cross and triumphant resurrection, He has paid the price for our sins and has paved the way for us to be reconciled to God the Father.
His death and resurrection is also a rescue from filthiness. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age”. There is hope for us if we long to escape the tragic cycle of doing something wrong and awful, feeling sorry, promising not to do it again, only to find ourselves committing the same sin over and over. God truly forgives the repentant, and He gives power to change to those who yield to Him and desire to follow Him.
Aside from these three things, Christ’s death and resurrection also made possible a relationship with friends. We may never thought of Jesus as a friend, but He Himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He gave up His life for us! That’s His proof that He loves you and me and that He is extending His hand of fellowship to us.
In return, Jesus wants us to consider Him as our friend too. In the same breath, He told His disciples, “You are My friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). And what is God’s command? Jesus summed it up this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-39).
In essence, God loves us and He wants us to love Him too. God is calling us to a love relationship, not merely to a religious ritual or a seasonal remembrance of His sacrificial love. Shouldn’t that make you smile?
*Message shared by Pastor Anthony John O. Munar