Reflecting On Holy Week

Before we celebrate Resurrection Sunday, we must first look back at the beginning of Holy week.  This is the most powerful week of the year.  It contains a wide range of events and emotions are on overload as well. 

            Resurrection Sunday (besides Christmas Day since that would be necessary for Resurrection Day to occur) is the most important day of the year.  This very day is what Christianity hinges upon.  If Christ did not rise from the dead Christianity would not hold up.  However, because He did, it not only holds up, but demonstrates that death was defeated, and Satan lost the fight.

            The beginning of Holy week is Palm Sunday.  This is the day embracing the triumphal arrival of Jesus entering Jerusalem for the Passover.  The day must have been fraught with electricity.  Imagine Jesus is riding on a donkey with coats strewn upon it and people tossing palm leaves on the ground.  The people are excited to see Him and cheer Him on as he passes by shouting Hosanna Hosanna.  Hope is all around and positivity abounds.

            The mood changes however the next day when Jesus enters the temple only to find the moneychangers making a mockery of the holy temple.  In righteous indignation He turns over the tables and says:

            “It is written, my house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

The people forgot where they were and took their wares to a holy place to profit.  Jesus addressed this and put them to shame.

            Tuesday becomes even more ominous.  This day Judas makes an important decision, and he negotiates with the Sanhedrin to capture our Lord.  For thirty pieces of silver Judas sells out the Lord.  Again, His enemies appear as He was teaching in the temple.  They were determined to test him and began by asking questions and demanding to know by whose authority does Jesus speak.  He does not answer them directly, but rather indirectly he speaks to them in the parable of the vineyard, of which they do not get the answer they sought.  They continue to question Him and asked if it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar.  Jesus has them show him a penny and then asked the crowd whose image is on the penny to which they answer, Caesar.   He responds accordingly in Luke 20:25

            “And he said unto them, render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”

Still not satisfied the Sadducees step in to try to “trip up” Jesus.  They tell a story of woman who is widowed and marries the oldest living brother to carry on the family name.  It continues that as each one dies the woman marries the next brother until they are all deceased, and no child was born.  They ask who she is married to in the afterlife (knowing that they do not believe in heaven). Jesus responds in Luke 20:34-38.

            “And Jesus answering said unto them, the children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.  Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”

Then to put them (the Sadducees) in their place he poses a question for them to answer in Luke 20:39-47.

            “Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said.  And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.  And he said unto them, how say they that Christ is David’s son?  And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?  Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts, which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.”

            Wednesday is more contemplative as Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and prays.  He reflects on the mission set before him and determined to do the will of the Father, he is now refreshed and ready to proceed.

            Thursday the disciples get the room ready for the evening Passover dinner.  Jesus points out what is going to happen, also teaches them a wonderful lesson on servitude.  It is better to serve than be served.  He demonstrates this by washing the feet of the disciples; thus, giving us an example to live by.  As they all sit down for the Last Supper Jesus tells them that he will not eat or drink until the Kingdom of God appears.  He offers them bread (symbolizing his body which he gave up for them) and wine (symbolizing his blood shed for them and which is the new testament).  He instructs them to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Him. He then proceeds to tell them that someone at this table is going to betray him and they all look at one another and question who it is.  Jesus also informs Peter that Satan wanted him, but Jesus prayed for strength of faith for Peter and that it would not fail.  Peter said he would go with Jesus wherever He went, but Jesus warned him that before the cock crows Peter would deny Jesus three times.

            Later that night, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.  As Jesus prayed to the Father gaining strength to finish what was started, the men below had fallen asleep.  Jesus came down from the Mount of Olives and saw that they were asleep.  He awakened them and warned them that they must be alert and prepared so that they would not fall into temptation.  

            Judas appears and kisses Jesus to signal to the guards and Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest Caiaphas.  Peter was questioned by three different people as to being with Jesus in at the time of the arrest and he denied this three times and then the cock crowed.  Ashamed he left and cried.  Judas who had received his thirty pieces of silver, realized what he had done and then he took his life.  Jesus was accused of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God and stating that he would rebuild the temple in three days.  He was next taken to Pontius Pilate who found no reason for him to die, but to appease the cries of the Jews (who demanded his crucifixion) he gave them the choice between a thief named Barabbas or Jesus to be released as was normally done at the Passover.  The crowd, who were already worked into a frenzy, demanded Barabbas be released and that Jesus be crucified.  Pilate granted them their wish.

            Friday was a day heavy with devastation.  Jesus was beaten, flogged, mocked, and then told to carry his own cross on the way to Calvary.  It was there that he was crucified.  What amazes me about this day is the poignancy, but also how Jesus asked God to forgive us for we know not what we do.  He put us ahead of himself to fulfill the will of the Father.  He became the sacrificial lamb and paid the price so that we, all sinners, may receive the gift of grace and salvation through him alone. His eyes turned to those that deeply loved him standing there and watching this happen, knowing that they were losing their son, friend, and teacher.  His mother, who carried him and birthed him only to now watch him suffer and then die.  His followers that stayed true to him huddled together supporting one another.  There was no compassion from the crowd other than that.  There was vitriol, snide remarks, and hatred. They gave him a bitter gall to wet his lips when he was thirsty.  The crowd baited him asking him to save himself if he was the true Son of God.  Even one of the thieves being crucified with him admitted that he, himself, deserved this death, but that Jesus did not.  Even he could see that Jesus was innocent.  The sky darkened, God could not even look at Jesus because he carried the sins of the world and that isolation haunts me.  He calls out “Why have you forsaken me?”  My heart tears when I hear that phrase.  Jesus states “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost.” 

            The earth shook, the sun darkened, and the veil/curtain was torn.  It was finished – fully. A soldier realized that Jesus truly was the Son of God.  However, the people needed to be sure that he was dead and pierced his side as the water and blood flowed out.  Jesus was taken down, wrapped in linen, and placed in a new tomb purchased by Joseph of Arimathea.  Night had fallen.

            Saturday was a day of preparation of the body.  Some women came and prepared the spices and ointments and rested since it was the Sabbath.

            But then came Sunday!  The women came and the stone was rolled away.  They looked inside and the body was gone, but two men in shining garments stood by them.  Seeing that they were afraid they told the women that He was gone and asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”  Luke 24:6-8 explains further:

            “He is not here but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words…”

The women went back and told the disciples and Peter and John raced towards the tomb to see for themselves.  The tomb was empty.  Jesus appeared not just to the women, but to other witnesses such as the two men who walked to Emmaus mourning the loss of Jesus.  When Peter and John met with the disciples, Jesus appeared before them and showed them his hands and feet.  Thomas even put his hand into the side of Jesus and believed it was him.  Jesus stayed with them until they received the Holy Spirit forty days later.

He had told them before his death that he would die and that he would rise again.  At first, they may have not fully understood what was going to happen.  However, now they see that He not only rose from the dead, but he conquered death itself.  He is alive, He does live, and He sits on the throne.  This is our hope.  This is what defines and holds Christianity together.   This is the perfect reason to celebrate and be joyous.  Our Lord lives!  He left us with a Helper (Holy Spirit) until we see Him again.  We are not alone, and this was not done in vain. Get on your feet, celebrate the goodness of our Lord.  Evil was defeated, death lost its sting.  Jesus won.  Yes, the previous days were rough especially on Jesus, but we now have a reason to live.  We have a living God who loves and looks out for us.  We need to repent, be transformed to a new life for Him, and tell the world.  So, share the gospel, share your story.  Serve the Lord with awe/respect and obedience.  Make a difference.  Jesus is that difference and I could not be more thankful, humbled, and happy!  Happy Resurrection Day everyone!

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