We now find ourselves in the midst of another Holy Week, having celebrated yesterday the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for the final time. When He leaves this city again, He will no longer be simply Jesus; He will be the Christ.
This may be Holy Week, but most of us have been celebrating it for much longer than just these few days.
Last Christmas (yes, I've been holding onto this one that long!), I was struck by how much of the Christmas rhetoric looks forward to Easter, as though the only thing that we can say about this God-become-flesh who came to dwell among us was that He came to die for our sins. We're all excited about this. We see the little boy in the manger, and we can't wait until He becomes the Christ on the Cross.
Yes, we love the Easter event so much that we start talking about it at Christmas.
But, interestingly enough, when Holy Week finally arrives, there are not many (if any) of us who remember the manger.
When we start to talk about the Lord who died for us, we don't talk about the One who lived for us. When we talk about the One who was betrayed, we do not talk about the One who was adored. When we talk about the Lamb led to the slaughter, we don't talk about the Babe in the stable. None of these things were an accident, and yet, we do not remember them. They are not part of our Jesus story.
Don't get me wrong - I don't want to downplay what happens this week. I don't want to pretend that the Cross was not incredible, that Jesus's death for our sins was some small thing. That's not at all what I'm saying.
What I am saying is that we often get so sucked into the Easter story that we forget the Gospel narrative, which is not just that Jesus came to die for us, but also that He came to live for us. We'll celebrate it on Sunday, but we don't even notice it at Christmas.
How messed up is that?
We know far more about the way that Jesus lived before He was crucified than we do after. We know a great deal about His life, even as we know much about His death. More than 3/4 of the whole of the Gospel stories are about how Jesus lived; only the final few chapters in each is about how He died.
Yet we so easily say, "Jesus? He died for me." He did die for you. But He also lived for you. And healed for you. And taught for you. And loved for you. And prayed for you. And all of this is His testimony, alongside the Cross. All of this is His plan for you.
Because He says things like, "Take up your cross and follow me." Of course, He does. But He also says things like, "Go, teach everyone. Go, heal the sick. Go, cast out the demons. Go, love your neighbor. Go, pray."
I love Holy Week. I do. But as we work our way toward Calvary this week, may we not forget that the story neither begins nor ends here. This little Lamb was born in a stable. This One who was betrayed was also adored. This Jesus who walks toward Golgotha walked also the shores of Galilee. And this Christ who died for us was also the Jesus who lived for us, just as He lives again come Sunday morn'.