This is Holy Week, when Christians honor Jesus’ last week as a human. April 9 was Palm Sunday. Children paraded through my church’s sanctuary waving palm branches while we sang, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” I love this tradition. It’s such a sweet picture of what the first Palm Sunday must’ve been like. Of course, it’s not as exhilarating as seeing Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt, and it’s certainly not as stirring as seeing a mass of people throng him while shouting, “Hosanna!” But it’s as close as I’ll ever get to experiencing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

This is both the best and the worst week of the year, in my opinion. I wish I could rejoice on Palm Sunday, reflect upon Jesus’ teaching at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and then see him talking with Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb on Easter morning. I want to skip Good Friday. But there is no resurrection without the crucifixion. And that’s the excruciating truth.

By the way, did you know that the word “excruciating” is derived from crucifixion? If you say the words aloud you’ll hear the similarity. I guess I’ve never used the word properly, then. I’ve never literally suffered anything excruciating, thank God.

I’ve always wondered why God didn’t let Jesus die quickly. Why crucifixion? Why not wait a couple thousand years and let him stand in front of a firing squad? Why did it have to take so long and be so horrible?

The answer? Jesus had to fulfill prophesy. Unfathomable as this is to my tiny brain, this is why. Isaiah 52:14 reads, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness….” (NIV) He had to suffer.

I can’t read this verse without seeing scenes from “The Passion of the Christ” in my mind. I only saw it once, but it’s permanently etched in my memory. If you’ve seen the movie you know what I mean. No one could forget it.

I usually read the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion on Good Friday, then spend the day wracked with anxiety and guilt. I’m always relieved when 3 o’clock rolls around. Jesus died around the ninth hour, or 3 p.m. I just hate this day. I know I’m partly responsible for it, after all. It twists my gut to think that Jesus would’ve gone to the cross even if I were the only person alive.

But while I beat myself up on Good Friday, I believe if I could see Jesus’ face, his eyes would be filled with compassion. He would smile and say he died because he loves me. Period. No guilt. No remorse.

My emotional response to the crucifixion isn’t what counts. What matters is how I respond to the message of the cross and the empty tomb. I have chosen to follow Jesus, however flawed my attempt at emulating him is. I hope you will choose to follow him, too. In the end, your response to the resurrection is what will define your life.

If you’re looking for ways to reflect on Jesus this week, join us at Fallowfield United Methodist Church for our Holy Week services. April 13 is Maundy Thursday, the night when we honor the Last Supper. You may take silent communion between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. if you are interested. Simply stop in the church and prayerfully take the elements. If you’re you’d like to participate in other Holy Week services, consider attending Good Friday service at 7 p.m. You’re welcome at Easter Sunrise service at 7 a.m. and our regular worship service at 9 a.m. Please join us.

Fallowfield United Methodist is hosting an old-fashioned hymn sing on Sunday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. Mark your calendar and come sing with us. You’ll get to sing old favorites. If you or your group would like to perform, please call Allen or Joyce Jacobs at (814) 382-3124.

Have a wonderful week. Blessings!