Yesterday was Palm Sunday and now we’re into Holy Week; that week of the year when we tell the story of the suffering and death of Jesus as we prepare to celebrate his resurrection on Easter Day. Most Christians find this to be a bitter sweet time for it can be hard for us to reflect upon the death of the Jesus we love – even though we know the end of the story. The end may be wonderful and glorious but the journey towards that end can be painful.
Telling the story is important. Any child can tell you that about stories – they need to be told to come alive. It is necessary for us to recount the events of that week from Jesus entering Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, greeted by the crowds, cheered by the people but upsetting the religious
leaders as he throws the traders out of the temple and rebukes the priests and scribes and lawyers for their hypocrisy, to the shadow of the cross that almost immediately falls over the story and leads us to the rigged trial (rigged by the priests, or rigged by Jesus, or both?) and so to the death on the cross and the tender burial by disciples who had, at best, been on the fringes of the group who followed Jesus. That story needs to be told. It needs to be heard. It needs to come alive for us.
But there are other stories, just as important, about Holy Week that need to be told. Sadly, often, those stories remain untold or, at least, unacknowledged and unrecognised.
The passion and death of Jesus do not happen in a vacuum; it’s not something that happens in isolation from everything else. It has a context – in his own life and times, and in ours. When we retell his story we need to tell ours too because we believe that Jesus’s death was not just about the end of his life but it was also about the salvation of sinful humanity. Who are the people that Jesus died for? In his ministry he made clear that he came to call not the righteous but sinners; that he sought out the outcast, the poor, the vulnerable, the gentiles, those who were rejected by society. The story of Jesus is their story too. And what was true then remains true today. Jesus’s story is still the story of the outcast, the vulnerable and the
rejected. The passion today is about the Syrian refugees, the people who need to use food banks, the disabled who cannot access the things that most of us take for granted, the dementia sufferers who need support in their homes. If our passion story is not about them too it is missing the point. These are the same people that Jesus ministered to then and that he ministers to today.
But it is important that we tell our own story too because Jesus died for us too. We need to tell the story of our need for forgiveness, of how Jesus touches and transforms our lives, of the ways in which his death and resurrection are real in our lives, because if it only happened two thousand years ago it doesn’t really matter. But if it is renewing and transforming lives now it remains important, and vital in our own time.
The passion and death of Jesus is not just a story of how he died, but most importantly it is a story of why he died and how it makes a difference today.