Yesterday we made history here in Bicester – for the first time St Edburg’s joined our Catholic brothers and sisters for the Palm Sunday procession: we gathered in the Convent garden where we heard the gospel’s witness of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, blessed Palm crosses and prayed together before we processed down Church Street into our respective churches to continue our services.
Palm crosses have become a powerful symbol – reminding us of the crowd waving Palm branches as Jesus entered the city on a donkey and, at the same time, the cross which was waiting at the end of the same week and which would become the symbol of God’s ultimate victory over death, the symbol that will unite Christians all over the world.
Holy week is taking us from glorious welcome to Christ’s death on the cross. We can only begin to imagine what the week must have been like for Christ’s disciples.
The disciples still had the glorious entry in their minds when started (again) to talk about his pending death. During the Passover meal in the upper room Jesus used some analogies that frightened them. When Jesus took the bread, he gave thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying: Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. After the meal he took the cup of wine, gave thanks and gave it to them saying: This is my blood which is shed for you, do this whenever you drink this in remembrance of me.
The disciples didn’t understand but they treasured these words in their hearts.
Then Jesus took them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Their tiredness was stronger than Jesus plea for them to stay awake and pray with Him. They fell asleep, only awaking to the sound of approaching soldiers. Jesus was arrested and taken to the house of the high priest Caiaphas. Having followed behind Peter got so frightened that he denied knowing Jesus three times. When the cock crowed Peter realised that Jesus had foretold the line of events – his failure hit him hard.
Before the disciples could take in what was happening they saw Jesus wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe standing in front of Pilate, surrounded by crowds. The same crowd but no longer cheering but jeering and shouting: Crucify, crucify.
The disciples witnessed Jesus being nailed to the cross, dying a horrific death. For them it was the end. The disciples were terrified and hid in the same upper room, desperate, fearful and hopeless.
But this wasn’t the end: as Jesus has foretold, on the third day He rose again from the dead. What was to follow was the manifestation of God’s power and glory.
We walked together on Sunday, we will walk together again on Good Friday when Christians from all denominations will come together and walk down Sheep Street to bear witness to this truth.
Only when we consciously walk through Holy Week can we begin to grasp the enormity of God’s gift to us. Christ’s death and resurrection is the power in which we live.
On Easter Day we can look back at Holy Week and rejoice in the ancient words: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
May God’s rich blessing be with you all this Holy Week & Easter.