My goodness. Here it is, Holy Week already. Which means Easter is practically upon us.

If I don’t pause and consider the coming of a special day, I tend to feel like I’m missing out. What if you just woke up and someone told you it was your birthday? Sure, it might be a nice surprise, but you might be sorry you didn’t get to look forward to it.

And Holy Week offers such wonderful opportunity for anticipation. It’s an incredibly well-crafted story. It opens on Palm Sunday with the hero riding into town as the people cry out their Hosanas and pave the way with branches. Here comes the king!

Then we have several days of Jesus in Jerusalem, teaching, healing, seeming to take his rightful place in the hearts and minds of the people–even if it’s not quite the way they imagined. Except . . . the Sadducees and Pharisees are grumbling. Shift to a private meal between Jesus and his disciples. A special time that seems perfect until it’s marred by the promise that one of them will betray Jesus. And just like that, it’s Maundy Thursday.

Now switch to a dramatic, almost internal scene. What is this cup Jesus so fervently hopes he won’t have to drink? Why is he so resigned to do it? Before we know the answer guards appear, led by the betrayer Judas. A poignant kiss, a moment of violence set right, and Jesus is taken.

It’s Good Friday now, our hero is being tried and beaten. There’s no evidence against him and yet he’s found guilty. The sentence is death. He’s crucified–there’s simply no way this story can be redeemed. Except. Didn’t our hero say that he would be killed? And didn’t he hint at a return? Could there be a way out of this mess?

No. The disciples are afraid. Distraught and in hiding. All hope is lost.

Then it’s Sunday morning. Easter. And the plot takes the most amazing turn. Jesus is alive. The anticipation peaks and gives way to relief, to joy, to abiding peace. A day well worth pausing to look forward to.

Sometimes anticipation is better than the actual event. Sometimes, it’s the perfect introduction to joy unspeakable. Happy Holy Week, indeed.