When a new movie is released, or a highly anticipated episode of a TV show airs, the internet and news media are full of posts and articles that contain the phrase “Spoiler Alert.” If you see that phrase, you know that you might find out something that might ruin any surprises for you. It’s like reading the last page of the book first. Some of us like those spoilers, and some of us don’t. Having the notice there helps people decide what they want to know and when. Many people feel that knowing how something ends spoils the entire experience of a movie, show or book for them. They want to be in the moment with the characters as the story progresses.
Next week is Holy Week. Spoiler Alert: It ends with Easter, when Jesus rises from the dead. We know this. But before we get to Easter, we have Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We know Easter is coming, so it’s easy for us to dismiss the emotions of those other days.
But imagine that you are one of Jesus’ early disciples. You follow him into Jerusalem as part of a triumphant entry only to have him arrested a few days later. You see him crucified and buried. You are confused, terrified, sad and possibly hopeless. You don’t know what will become of you or this fledgling religious movement. Your leader is gone—killed by the authorities for his beliefs and teaching—and you might be next. You don’t know that Easter is coming. You don’t know that the Church will stand more than 2000 years later. In the moment, you are just trying to survive another day.
Many of us are in our own personal Holy Weeks. Some of us know Easter is coming or have already reached it. But, so many of us are in that time between Good Friday and Easter. We are sitting in grief and uncertainty. Some of us may have received a medical diagnosis, may have lost a job, may be trying to start a family, may be facing yet another day with inadequate food or may be mourning the loss of a loved one. For those of us already at Easter, telling someone else that Easter is coming doesn’t cure those fears and anxieties. Telling someone “It will be okay” is not the same as being with them in the moment and acknowledging that it is not okay right now. Who are we in the story of Holy Week? And, perhaps more to the point, where are we? Are we at the foot of the cross? Are we sitting by the fire denying Christ? Are we walking to the tomb with anointing oil not knowing what we will find when we arrive? Yes. We are all those things and more.
This Holy Week, I challenge us all to approach the story of Jesus with un-spoiled hearts. Let us be in the moment and hear the story as if for the first time, without knowing what is coming. How might we treat others differently if we know they live in the days between crucifixion and resurrection? How might we treat ourselves differently if we realize we do as well?