Forming Faith Blog

Triduum: Fear & Joy (Matt. 26, 27, 28)

The Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter represent the holiest days of the church year. These stories represent both fear and joy.

Triduum is an ancient Latin word that means “three days” and is used to refer to the three most holy days in the Christian liturgical year. It starts on the evening of Maundy Thursday, includes Good Friday (and Holy Saturday), and ends on Easter Sunday (it’s three, not four, since each “day” starts in the evening. I know, it confused me, too.).

Why am I calling these the three most holy days (you are probably not asking)? That is because without Jesus’ death and resurrection the Christian faith as we know it would not exist. Maundy Thursday is of secondary importance, but we still would not have an essential component of Christian worship (communion) without it. But each of these observances contains both fear and joy.

Maundy Thursday: Distressed

  • Date: April 6, 2023
  • Bible Reading: Matthew 26:17-30
  • The Point: Jesus gives us the gift of communion.
Fear and Distress

Fear at the Lord’s Supper? What does that mean? While there isn’t really any fear expressed during the supper itself, it is present before (and after) that passage. Shortly before Jesus gave the bread and wine, he announced to his disciples that one of them would betray him. This left the disciples quite distressed, fearful about what that meant. Judas must also have felt fear as he knew he was the one that Jesus was calling out.

Joy and Celebration

Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the Passover. This Festival of Unleavened Bread was (and is) a celebration of God’s mighty act of liberation of the ancient Israelites from the slavery of Egypt. This liberation was an occasion for joy.

Good Friday: Forsaken

  • Date: April 7, 2023
  • Bible Reading: Matthew 27:27-61
  • The Point: Jesus’ death was felt by all of creation.
Fear and Suffering

The suffering and death of Jesus that we remember on Good Friday is the easiest passage to see the fear. Before this, at the end of chapter 26, fear was demonstrated in the denials of Peter, and before that in Jesus’ prayers in the garden for the cup of suffering to pass from him. Jesus’ last cry before his death was a statement of fear and loneliness as he expressed his feelings about God’s apparent abandonment of God’s beloved Son.

Why Is It Called Good?

There is no joy present in the passages describing Jesus’ suffering, death, and burial. Even any happiness that Jesus’ enemies felt at their apparent victory was too filled with hatred and fear to be counted as joy. But through the ages, the observance of these events was (and is) called Good Friday. How can something so horrific be called “good”? At the time, it could not be. But as Jesus’ followers began to understand the significance of these events, they were able to look at them with a mixture of somberness and joy, since Jesus voluntarily went through this out of his infinite love for them, for you and me.

Easter Sunday: Upside Down

  • Date: April 9, 2023
  • Bible Reading: Matthew 28:1-10
  • The Point: Do not be afraid, but rejoice; Jesus is risen!
Fear, an Angel, and a World Turned Upside Down

In terms of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have a major advantage over Jesus’ disciples who were living this story. We can see the goodness buried in the suffering of the cross, and we can see the significance for us all in the empty tomb. Both the angel’s appearance and their message terrified the women who first saw and heard this. When they appear in the Bible, angels often begin with “fear not,” which shows how scary their appearance must have been. But the angel’s message was also terrifying. Jesus’ resurrection—great news that it is—broke their understanding of the world.

Joie de Vivre (Literally)

Just as the fear is obvious on Good Friday, joy is obvious in our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Our Messiah cannot be conquered by death, but instead, he conquers death itself. Death cannot be victorious over Life. Jesus’ life brings us great joy, just as it did the women who first received the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!


Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free family fun activity “Empty Tomb Snack” from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (NL) (Year 1, 2022-2023 and Year 2, 2023-2024) curriculum. This tasty activity can be used in a class or at home!

Order Faith Formation Resources

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