Holy Week: A Vision for Tearing Down the Walls
Human beings have always been preoccupied with building walls. In the first century, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a 75-mile wall across Roman Britain. In the 1870s, Argentina built a line of trenches and watchtowers called the Zanja de Alsina to protect Buenos Aires from invasion by indigenous peoples. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, dividing East from West for almost 30 years. In 1975, South Africa built a 3,500-volt electric fence dubbed the Snake of Fire to keep the civil war in Mozambique from spilling over into the frontier. In the middle of the night in August 2006, Italian officials constructed a steel wall around Via Anelli, a run-down neighborhood known for drug trafficking and prostitution.
Walls don’t just divide us, they make us ill. After the Berlin Wall went up, East German psychiatrists observed that the Berlin Wall caused mental illness, rage, dejection, and addiction. The closer to the physical wall people lived, the more acute their disorders. The only cure for what they labeled “Wall Disease” was to bring the wall down. Sure enough, in 1990 psychiatrists noted the “emotional liberation” felt after November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall finally fell. Thousands of jubilant GermaHoly Wns climbed the wall, wept, embraced each other atop the concrete, and proceeded to tear the wall down with joyful abandon.
The week we’re all about to experience next month is what Christ-followers through the ages have referred to as Holy Week. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and carries on through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, culminating on Easter Sunday. It’s a time for Christ-followers to engage with Jesus’ journey to the cross and beyond, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and concluding with his lonely trek from the Upper Room through Gethsemane, and ultimately to the cross and the empty tomb.
At its core, the life-giving message of Holy Week is one of God tearing down walls: walls that keep us from experiencing a relationship with Him … walls that exclude us from experiencing meaningful relationships with one another … walls resulting in unnecessary division and heartbreak … walls that grieve the heart of God and distort His original plan for humanity.
The central message of Holy Week is communicated clearly by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2 …
“God loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. And Christ himself has brought peace to us. He broke down the wall of hostility that separates us from Him. He also made peace by creating in Himself one new people. Christ reconciled us to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death as well.”
The dilemma that all of us face is this: what do we do with all the mistakes, transgressions, shortcomings, and sins that we commit that erect a wall between us and God? The message of Holy Week isn’t merely that God forgives sinners. He takes away all our sins, and it has nothing to do with our religious performance. Jesus took our sin upon himself on the cross and carried it away. And then, to boot, He arose from the dead to reveal His authority to do this, and to bestow a power for us to live beyond the limiting bondage of sin. The Bible calls this peace with God.
As if this isn’t enough, in the overflow of such forgiveness and peace, we’re able to forgive others more fully and live with a heart of peace toward those who previously enraged us. And in response to God’s unconditional love for us, we’re empowered to look beyond the labels, stereotypes, and prejudices that build walls of alienation in our relationship with others. We’re able to see people as God does: objects of His transforming love, for whom Christ died and rose again. People who matter to Him, no matter who they are or where they’ve been in life.
If you’re a follower of Christ, my prayer is that this upcoming Holy Week 2023 will allow you to celebrate what God has done for you in tearing down the walls of sin and hostility, resulting in your restored relationship with Him and with others. And that it will also prompt you to look around and consider the walls that you have built in your relationships with others, allowing the transformative power of the Gospel to break down those things that keep these relationships from being all that God desires, and you most deeply long for.
Have a blessed Holy Week, RCS family, and may the walls in your life become rubble thanks to the amazing grace of God!
By Pastor Bruce Hoppe
Christ Community Church
Printed in the Greely Tribune