Ever since I was a child I've loved Holy Week because it is so dramatic. It is the point of the Christian year that we most get to enter into the story of Jesus. As I reflect upon it now, I begin to notice the different roles that we get to play. It is important, I think, to stay in character.
On Palm Sunday, we take the role of the crowd as they wave palms and welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, hailing him as the Messiah. Churches that borrow donkeys for the morning are onto something here! Then, as we read the Passion Gospel, we continue as the crowd, all joining in the lines given to the mob calling for Jesus to be crucified. This year we read Matthew's account of the Passion, and so we all had to join in that horrific line 'His blood be upon us and upon our children'.
On Maundy Thursday, we take the part of the disciples in the upper room. Our feet are washed and we share in the Lord's Supper. Then we continue in that role as we flee from danger as Jesus is arrested. We may watch with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane for a time in the night, unlike the disciples obeying Jesus' request to "watch with me, just one hour" but we shouldn't forget that our role here is not to be better than the disciples, but that we are with the disciples in abandoning Jesus, denying Jesus, even betraying Jesus.
Good Friday gives us two roles. We are the women at the foot of the cross, mourning the death of their Lord, their friend, their son. But we also reprise our role as the crowd baying for blood, rejecting the sort of Messiah that Jesus came to be. It is for our sins that he dies.
On Holy Saturday we do nothing. There is nothing to do except wait and long for the coming resurrection. Perhaps we can prepare our spices for the morning.
Then on Easter day we return to all these roles. We are again the women as they find the tomb empty at sunrise. We who rejected Jesus and called for his death, are accepted by him and converted anew. We renew our commitment to him as we renew the promises we made at our baptism. We are the disciples who hear the Good News and then meet the Risen Lord. Our betrayals, our desertions are forgiven and we are reunited with our Saviour. In the Easter Eucharist we share food with Jesus, and in the bread and wine see 'the Lamb who lives forever slain', the Saviour who bears the marks of the nails. The joy of Easter is heightened by the way we are invited to take part in the events of the preceding week.
In all of this we are the actors taking specific parts. Sometimes we play around with the timeline a bit (such as watching with Jesus after we have fled from the arrest party), but we are still putting ourselves into the story.
This drama has immense power. It is training for we who are called to take up our cross and follow.