Confession 344: On Christian Suffering and Holy Week

Dear friends, don’t be surprised about the fiery trials that have come among you to test you. These are not strange happenings.  Instead, rejoice as you share Christ’s suffering. You share his suffering now so that you may also have overwhelming joy when his glory is revealed.  If you are mocked because of Christ’s name, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory—indeed, the Spirit of God—rests on you.

 Now none of you should suffer as a murderer or thief or evildoer or rebel.  But don’t be ashamed if you suffer as one who belongs to Christ. Rather, honor God as you bear Christ’s name.  1 Peter 4:12-16 (CEB)

Holy Week.  This is the week for Jesus Followers.  More so even than Christmas, this is the week for those who believe in Christ Jesus.  This is the week when we follow our Savior through the streets of Jerusalem.  We walk beside him as men, women, and children should “Hosanna!” and hail him King.

This is also the week where we gather together with our brothers and sisters in faith to share a last meal with the Teacher.  We listen to him as he tells us that this bread, the bread we eat, is his body broken for us.  We are full of wonder when he takes the cup and says, “This is my blood, poured out as a drink offering for you.”

This is the week where we sit in the garden with the Son, as he begs for the cup of suffering to be taken from him.  We wait, sleepy and full with our eyelids drooping as he agonizes over his fate, finally submitting to the authority and purpose of the Father.

This is the week where we go into the depths of the Antonia Fortress and watch as the Innocent is beaten, humiliated, mocked, tortured and, in agony, is forced to carry a cross he never deserved but chose to carry.

This is the week where we stand, silent, our hearts heavy, as the Lamb of God cries out from his broken body, “It is finished!”

This is the week when our joy turns to sorrow as we stand before a tomb where a battered, broken body lays.  Forgotten are the “Hosannas” that rang throughout the city only days before.  Instead, there is fear, bitterness, and dark, dark grief.

As Jesus people, we can’t forget or ignore the suffering Christ endured during our most holy of weeks.  Because that suffering was ours.  That agony was born for our sins, not his.

And, we can’t forget that there are people who are still suffering this day in his name.

I’m not talking about those American believers who think that because the Ten Commandments aren’t posted in public school we’re “suffering”.  To be sure, being a Jesus follower in the US is lonely at times.  We are living in the midst of modern-day Babylon.  However, we still have the ability to openly practice our faith.  We can, if we choose, go to church on Sunday mornings, gather in  Bible study through the week, pray with our children before they go to school, and put a study Bible in our kids’ backpacks.

But there are believers out there who face the darkness of violent oppression and injustice.  In the past few weeks alone, several Jesus followers have walked the road of unjust imprisonment, torture, and execution because they have professed to believing in their Redeemer.  They have, quite literally, followed Christ down the dark, painful, lonely path that is Holy Week.

As we gather this week to remember Christ’s suffering, Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s death on the cross, I think we need to remember our fellow brothers and sisters who are sharing that walk with Christ right now.  We need to pray for them–for their strength, their safety, their peace, and their deliverance.

“Remember me…” Jesus said.  Take some time this Holy Week to read through the stories of Christ’s suffering and death once more.  Pray for those who are suffering today in his name.  And remember, it’s not the end of the story.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen.  1 Peter 5: 10-11

Blessings and Peace,