This Holy Week, we’re preparing our hearts to celebrate Easter Sunday. But before we experience the joy of Resurrection, Good Friday let’s us hold space for grief. Jesus knows about pain and death because he entered it on our behalf. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Herberger to share about holding space to grieve on Good Friday.
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Two years ago our Holy Week was upended. We skipped our Last Supper celebration. We breezed past Good Friday. We barely settled into Easter. We were in the middle of a crisis. My Dad was in the final hours of a two month dramatic decline in his health. He would pass away late in the night in the hours where Maundy Thursday meets Good Friday. In the swirl of those final days, amidst all that felt chaotic, I made the choice not to celebrate.
It was a huge mistake.
Everything I know about celebrating tells me that it is good and right to celebrate in the midst of the chaos, in the midst of the crisis, in the midst of the grief. And yet, I tried another way. The days came and went and while there was food and Church and candy, we all felt the emptiness.
I made assertions of circling back, of celebrating again another day, when it was less chaotic, when things had slowed down, when it didn’t feel so overwhelming. But did we? No. And that is why it is so much better to piece together the celebration, even if it doesn’t look like the dream.
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Celebrating the Passover with the disciples is the ONLY time Jesus voiced a desire for anything. “I fervently desire to eat this Passover with you.” (Luke 22:15, CSB) This is the start of the rhythms of Holy Week. It all begins in the Upper Room.
One year after skipping the Last Supper we found ourselves in another crisis, a new time of unknown in the early days of the pandemic. But I knew. And so just as Jesus said to his disciples, I too said, I deeply desire to eat this meal. To come around the table, to remember, to celebrate.
For many of us, this year does not feel much different. The crisis continues, unknowns lie before us, likely with new grief as well. And we say, as the disciples did…How?! How can we celebrate?
Don’t believe the lie that life is too chaotic for celebration. We celebrate not just despite the chaos, we celebrate in the midst of it.
If you have not celebrated the Last Supper I would love to invite you to try something new this Holy Week. Spend some time in the Upper Room with Jesus and the disciples. Lean in and listen to the story of freedom and God’s faithfulness. In the hours before he was arrested and crucified, Jesus spent his time with his friends, showing them how what was about to happen on the cross would be the beginning of something brand new.
We get to live in the reality of life after the cross. But once a year, before we mourn on Good Friday and celebrate on Easter, we spend time in the tension of what was known and what was not yet realized. Just as the disciples did that evening, we wrestle with the deeper meaning of all Jesus said and reconsider how free we are to become, and how very good our God is.
It is from this place of tension that we welcome Good Friday. A hard day. One that is easier brushed past on our way to the victory of Easter Sunday. The discomfort, pain and maybe even guilt we experience when we dwell too long on the realities of Good Friday are challenging. Yet I believe this day is set aside for exactly that. Before we step into joyous celebration we must pause here and walk with Jesus from Gethsemane to Golgotha.
It is painful to look at the cross. It is painful to see the cost of our sin. If we are in fact healed by his wounds we must, too, witness and grieve the path he took to secure our healing.
We are not accustomed to sitting in grief, to witnessing without moving on quickly. The slowing down on Good Friday allows us to sit, if just for a few hours, in the grief of the day. For any of us who have experienced grief we know the fellowship that comes when a friend comes alongside us and simply sits in the gap. This is our call on Good Friday. Don’t look away. Don’t move too quickly to the true joy we know is awaiting us on Easter. Instead, honor Good Friday as the day it is.
I believe this past year has opened up the whole world to a conversation about grief. May this Good Friday grant us all an opportunity to grieve well, together.
By taking time to linger in the Upper Room, to walk with Jesus from Gethsemane to Golgotha, to not look away from the tension and the grief, we can more fully experience the joy of Easter.
It is all worthy of celebration.
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Get Jessica’s FREE Good Friday Practice & Liturgy here. And Jessica is offering her more extensive step-by-step guide to celebrate the Last Supper, an intersection of the traditional Passover elements in light of the new covenant, for the special discount of $3.50 with the code LA15. Find the guide here.
Jessica Herberger is an author and Bible teacher who explores the intersection of faith, history and liturgy. Her first book, Break Bread Together, was released June 2020. Through her writing and speaking, she inspires women to seek community, walk in obedience, and love others well. Jessica lives in upstate New York with her husband, Josh and their three kids where she can be found surrounded by books and music.