This week my church hosted an event called the Passion Week Experience. It’s a fresh look at an ancient practice. People experience eight stations of the cross and interact with the elements and events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. The experience is deeply personal, emotional and meaningful.
As a Believer it’s a story with which I’m very familiar. But that’s not the case for everyone. Wednesday night we have a group of English Language Learners classes for people who want to learn to better speak, read and understand English. In the class are people of about 8 different nationalities. A few of them are Chinese. This past Wednesday night our ELL leaders took their students through the Passion Week Experience. Their reaction was interesting.
As they walked through each station they said, “I thought Easter was about the bunny. I thought it was a celebration of spring.” Our leaders were able to explain that Easter is a time when we remember the betrayal, torture, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were shocked. Their next question was significant.
“But why would you celebrate such cruelty?”
It does seem strange to honor instruments of torture, to reflect on the last meal of a man doomed to death, to approach with reverence and wonder the oils and spices used to embalm a decaying corpse. But it’s only strange if you consider one side of the story. It’s the rest of the Passion Week story that gives us cause to celebrate. These were the tools God used to provide for your salvation and mine. This was the method he chose to deliver you from your sin. This was the act that would allow someone else to receive in our place the punishment we deserved. That punishment was poured out on God’s son, Jesus.
And that’s where the Passion Story gets even better. Jesus died, but he rose again. He lives today and offers forgiveness to all who believe. He wants to forgive you. Will you receive it?
There’s another passion station. It’s a representation of the Holy of Holies with a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. I’m grateful for the artist who built this Ark. It’s so well done we told people we found it in a crate in a government warehouse somewhere in Nevada! (lame movie reference).
In the Old Testament the Ark of the Covenant was in the Temple and separated from the people. It sat in the Holy of Holies and represented the place that was filled with the holy presence of God. No on could enter but the High Priest and he could only enter once per year after making atonement for his sins so that he could make atonement for the sins of a nation. Because sin can’t live in the presence of the holiness of God there are stories in the Old Testament of people who died simply because they touched the Ark of the Covenant!
It’s led to lots of speculation about what might happen if someone touched our replica. But that answer is simple. Nothing. Not because it’s a replica, but because the veil is torn. Jesus paid the price for your sin and mine. On the day he died on the cross the veil that separated man from God was torn in half from top to bottom. God opened the Holy of Holies and said, “Come in, you’re welcome here because of Jesus work on the cross.” There’s even a verse that tells us, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter the Holy of Holies because of the blood of Jesus.” That’s the real meaning of Passion Week.
Passion Week is a celebration of cruelty. The worst form of capital punishment ever conceived was used on Jesus, the blameless son of God. He willingly received it and gave up his life so that we might be forgiven of our sin. Jesus proved his passion for us. Today, through Jesus, we can have peace with God and a deep and intimate relationship with him. We can boldly enter his presence and experience his grace, love, peace, kindness and favor.
How will you celebrate this Passion Week? Will you celebrate the cruelty? Will you reflect on the sacrifice? Will you remember the end of the story? Jesus is alive! He is risen! Will you place your faith in him and trust Jesus for the forgiveness of sin?
1 John 4:9-10 say, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
Celebrate the cruelty that brought grace. Experience his passion for you. Give your life to Jesus.
Thank you for going through the cruelty of the betrayal, torture and cross for me. Thank you that you loved me even before I loved you. Thank you for the life you have given me through your son, Jesus. Thank you that today I can boldly enter your presence, not because of my goodness, but because of your righteousness in me. I want to walk with you today. Don’t let me run ahead of your will or lag behind. But help me stay right with you where you are. Give me boldness and courage to share your story with others and allow me the privilege of seeing people come to faith in you. This Easter, let people remember, let them experience this story in a way that is deep, intimate, meaningful, personal and powerful. Thank you, Father.
I love you, in Jesus name –