Every story has a climax. It’s the point in the narrative at which everything that has been going on throughout the course of the story reaches its culmination, its high point, its most important moment. There’s enough dramatic tension to fill all of the Great Lakes 10 times over. It’s for moments like these that we sift through the pages of our favorite book and allow ourselves to get lost in far off places. Holy Week, particularly the latter half, is the climax of our story as the church. After celebrating the Passover for the final time with his disciples Jesus begins his journey towards Golgotha. This road takes him to the Garden of Gethsemane where Luke tells us that “his sweat became like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44, ESV) as he begged God to take him out of the situation that he was in but it wasn’t to be. Eventually Jesus is sentenced to death and is forced to endure a torture unlike anything else that has ever existed. Historians and biologists tell us that the crucifixion methods that had been developed by the Romans by this time were among the most effective for making death as slow and as painful as possible (this is the main reason that it was reserved only for the worst criminals). What blows my mind is that even in the midst of all of the pain that Jesus is suffering his focus is still on the lives of others. In Luke 23:34 he asks God to “forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing” (The Voice) and then tells one of the criminals that had been hung there with him that “this very day you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, The Voice). John 19 tells us that he even took a moment to make sure that his mother was taken care of.
Eventually Jesus breathed his last breath and in the hours that followed uncertainty began to set in. Jesus had said that if they were to “destroy this temple…I will rebuild it in 3 days” (John 2:19, The Voice) and that his life “cannot be taken away by anyone else; I am giving it of my own free will” (John 10:18, The Voice) but in this moment those words brought little comfort. Fortunately for them, and us, the story of Scripture doesn’t end there. Sunday came and the world was changed forever. Mark tells us that “at the rising of the sun, after the Sabbath on the first day of the week, the two Marys and Salome brought sweet-smelling spices they had purchased to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus…when they arrived, the stone was already rolled away in spite of its weight and size” (Mark 16:1-4, The Voice). An angel that was waiting there asked them why they were “seeking the living One in the place of the dead? He is not here. He has risen from the dead. Don’t you remember what He told you way back in Galilee?” (Luke 24:5b-6, The Voice) Suddenly the words that Jesus had spoken before made sense. He had beaten death as promised but in the days and years since many people have gone to great lengths to disprove this event because they know that the words of the apostle Paul are true, that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19, ESV). The testimony of countless witnesses and the lives of the apostles, many of whom were martyred, remind us that this isn’t the case. Jesus is alive and death has indeed been “swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthains 15:54, ESV).