Why The Darkness of Holy Week is Necessary

canstockphoto16277816I never really like it when someone tells me, “I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.” Usually the good news is not as good as the bad news is bad. While I like my bad news tempered with good news, I like my good news untempered and untainted by anything bad.

I like it when people come to me and say, “I’ve got good news.” Period.

At first glance, when Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, it sounds like a “good news, period” scenario, but it’s not. Behind the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand is the bad news that the kingdom of somebody else has been at work.

The good news that a savior has come means we’re in some condition from which we need saving.

Nobody likes bad news, especially when the bad news involves us, even less when it is caused by us. When the bad news is potentially devastating, the denial response kicks in.

Denial is a natural protective mechanism that is useful and beneficial, though we don’t usually see it as such. In addicts denial is seen as destructive in that it prevents them from addressing the seriousness of their illness and its destructive effects.

With terminally ill or grieving people it is seen as a natural yet sad way of coping with a shocking situation.

We tend to admire people who skip denial and immediately start to deal with a situation straight up, but that is not always beneficial. When bad news is really bad, trying to deal with it immediately is like trying to eat a whole hog at one sitting.

Better to spread it over several meals, eating until sated and allowing time for it to digest.

Denial allows a person time to digest bad news one meal at a time, even one bite at a time. It gives a person time to create a new view of their future, and that is too important to rush.

Denial is necessary, yet it is destructive when a person never moves beyond it to start dealing with the problem. To continue to deny bad news is in effect to never get around to the good news.

The only way to the good news is through the bad news.

Easter is good news, but the only way Jesus got to Easter was to go through betrayal, arrest, abandonment, torture, and crucifixion.

Resurrection is good news, but the only way to get to resurrection is through death.

Forgiveness is good news, but its precedent is always sin.

Reconciliation is good news, but its precedent is always relational breakdown or even betrayal.

You can’t skip the bad stuff and go straight to the good stuff. And you shouldn’t want to. I’m not saying that forgiveness is so good that you should sin more so that you can experience forgiveness more. In Paul’s words, “May it never be!”

But the Good News is made all the better by coming to a full understanding of how bad the bad news is.

In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the Pharisee didn’t think he needed much forgiving so he didn’t ask for much and received even less than that.

The Publican needed much and knew it, and so the effect was so much greater for him.

The sun is always much brighter when you just walk out of a dark room. You don’t think about how bright it is when your eyes have adjusted to it.

It’s easy to take Easter for granted when your eyes have adjusted to the light. To appreciate the bright light of Easter, we need to go into a dark room.

That’s what Holy Week is for me—a chance to relive the darkness so that I can truly experience the Light. That’s why I look forward with a sense of sadness and even dread when our church observes Maundy Thursday with a service of Shadows—not because I like shadows and darkness but they are necessary.

The service is the dark room I go into so that I can appreciate the brightness of Easter Sunday.

Because taking it for granted is the most destructive kind of denial: the kind that doesn’t just deny bad news, but good news as well.

Image by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / vitanovski

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