It is the week right before we celebrate Easter or Resurrection Sunday. During this time many churches pause to remember the suffering and death of Jesus through various traditions and worship services.
The reason I chose to write this blog, is that it is easy to be so focused on the celebrations, the pageants and musicals etc. about the long awaited King on Palm Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, that we totally miss the suffering, humiliation and death that are all part of Holy Week.
In fact, when was the last time you spent the week reading about the events that took place prior to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection?
It is important that we place the hope of the Resurrection and the promise of new life, against the background of death. As you walk through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week and Good Friday, only then do you really grasp the horror and magnitude of sin and its consequences. Only then can you fully understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!
Riding a donkey Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem. Even in the midst of the praises of the crowds, He had His eye on the cross on which He would be crucified at the end of the week.
In the hope of fully grasping Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary and to embrace the hope that belongs to all believers as a result, each day we will look at the events which led up to the His death.
To make it easier to find each blog, I have added links below for each day of Holy Week.
Daily blog readings
Sunday – The Journey Begins
Monday – Jesus Destroys the Robbers Den
Tuesday – Looking for the Safe Answer
Wednesday – Extravagant Love
Thursday – The Third Cup, Redemption
Friday – The Darkest Dark
Sunday – He is Risen!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
As a young believer in a small “country church”, I was puzzled by the way the people greeted each other my first Easter as a Christian.
The atmosphere was pregnant with a sense of excitement that went beyond the sugar high of children who had spent the morning feasting on chocolate, jelly beans and marshmallow peeps.
Families began to gather in their Easter finery. Ladies wrapped in bright colors wearing millinery that rivaled the splendor of spring flowers dressed by their Maker. Gentlemen in freshly pressed shirts adorned with new ties. Children wearing their new Easter outfits accessorized with chocolate mustaches.
Suddenly the air gave birth to shouts of “He is risen!” and the reply shot back “He is risen indeed!”
What was this strange ritual that was taking place before my newborn eyes?
For as long as anyone knows, perhaps as long as we have celebrated the resurrection, the Paschal or Easter greeting has been “Christ is risen!” And the reply that follows is “He is risen indeed!” This greeting, in a very simple way sums up the core of Christianity.
We quickly adopted the tradition and taught it to our children. It warms my heart to hear, my now adult children, greeting others in the same manner. But as I heard one of my teenage grandsons respond “He is risen indeed”, my heart was full.
I have to admit though, it seems like the greeting is on the decline. As we greeted others in recent years, some looked quizzically as if to say “What did she say?” Others said, “Yeah isn’t that cool?” But there were still a remnant who responded with excitement, almost a shout “He is risen indeed!”
Crucifixion and Resurrection
On Good Friday we remembered the crucifixion of Christ, and we all know the crucifixion is vital to our salvation. But, on Easter we celebrate His resurrection. In fact many call this day Resurrection Sunday.
Yes, when we say resurrection we really mean that Jesus was actually physically dead. He was in the grave Friday evening, all day Saturday, and even part of Sunday. He was actually physically raised from the dead – His body became alive again!
But, why is that so important that it becomes the focus of the holiest day of the church calendar?
Even though leaders of other religions have died none can boast that they had been raised from the dead! That is what makes Christianity distinctly different from any other religion.
Why is the Resurrection such a big deal?
- The resurrection is the proof that Christ’s sacrifice was enough.
- It provides the power for us to live a life of surrender
- It give assurance that we have access to the throne room of heaven.
The Resurrection means that we will also be raised from the dead.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. – 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Now the phrase “first fruits” means there will be second fruits. Jesus was first, but in Him we will all also be made alive. Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave! We have nothing to fear! Death, the last great enemy is defeated.
“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Since Christ was raised from the dead we know that
- He was sinless.
- His sacrifice was accepted.
- our sins are forgiven.
- there is no reason to fear death, we will be resurrected just as Christ was resurrected.
Some things to think about
This may sound like a change of subject, but stay with me. What is it that you are afraid of? What is it that worries you and keeps you awake at night?
If Jesus has given us victory over death, isn’t everything else we worry and fret over much less of a big deal?
On Resurrection Sunday worship and celebrate the risen Lord! Each day rest in the fact that even death is conquered, so everything else is going to be ok. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow!
The Light of the world overcame even the darkest dark of Good Friday – giving us Hope for whatever today and every day holds!
Next year when you are greeted with “He is risen” shout out loud and proud “He is risen indeed!”
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
- Matthew 28
- Mark 16
- Luke 24
- John 20, 21
- 1 Corinthians 15
- Romans 6
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each believer tries to understand what it cost Jesus to win our redemption.
As I sit here on this Good Friday the oppression weighs heavy on my spirit. I love how my friend Alicia put it
The Grunt in my heart of hearts is the best expression of how I feel this “GOD” FRIDAY MORNING! There are NO WORDS-just deep Holy Spirit-led WORSHIP springing up from the depths of my being… HE DIED FOR SINS! MY SINS!
It is not a day of celebration but of mourning, both for the death of Jesus and for the sins of the world which His death represents.
The night before, Jesus had His last supper with His disciples, men who followed Him from the beginning of His ministry. They had listened to His teachings, saw Him healing and casting out demons.
Jesus came to radically change the world. He had been preparing His disciples for His death throughout His earthly ministry. But it was so beyond their comprehension that they couldn’t grasp it. Not yet, but in a few days, that would change.
Jesus’ last night
Jesus spent His last night with these men teaching them what they needed to know before He was gone. What is so fascinating to me is the last command that He gave them
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. – John 13:34
Why this command?
I’ve pondered this for many years. Why this command?
I’ve commented tongue in cheek (with a twist of truth) – “It’s because Jesus knew how hard it would be to deal with other believers. After all, ministry would be great if it weren’t for people.”
I believe I have had an epiphany – Perhaps He knew they already loved God with all their hearts, which they already demonstrated by leaving their previous lives, taking up their cross, and following Him.
So why this command? Love one another even as I have loved you. Perhaps He knew that after He was gone life as they had known it was about to be radically different. Persecution, suffering, and pain lie ahead. They must be unified to stand firm and to carry out their God-given purpose.
I am beginning to think it was more than that.
I wonder if it had to do more with the new “rules”. Instead of the 613 laws of the previous religious institution of the Pharisees, Jesus said these are the most important – Love God and to Love people (Matthew 22:34-39).
Love one another – Perhaps it was the last command because it would help them keep focused on what they were called to do.
Sorry, I got a little distracted, so let’s move on.
It is Friday morning and Jesus has been transferred from the Jewish to the Roman authorities.
We aren’t going to look at all the events of Friday but I wanted you to see them and encourage you to read about them so you can see in the Word the gravity of the day.
- Jesus’ sentencing by the Jews (Matthew 27:1-2)
- Judas’ death (Matthew 27:3-10)
- Jesus’ sentencing by the Romans (Matthew 27:11-26)
- The mocking of the soldiers (Matthew 27:27-31)
- Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:32-44)
- Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:45-56)
- Jesus’ burial (Matthew 27:57-61)
- The guard placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64)
Jesus stands before the Jews
Judas led the temple guards to the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. After His arrest, the temple guards took Jesus to Annas, a former High Priest, and father-in-law of the current High Priest, Caiaphas (John 18). After questioning Jesus, Annas sent Him to Caiaphas, the High Priest. There Jesus was questioned, condemned by false witnesses, spit upon, and viciously beaten.
Jesus brought to Pontius Pilate
Early Friday morning, the religious leaders of Israel officially declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy. Because Jerusalem was under Roman law, the Jews did not have the right to execute capital offenders (John 18:31). The Jewish leaders bring Jesus before the Roman governor, Pilate, and demand Jesus’s execution.
Judas has an apparent change of heart. He is “seized with remorse”. Judas does acknowledge his sin and Jesus’ innocence, but he does not demonstrate the mark of genuine repentance. (more about what true repentance looks like in another blog)
Judas confesses and tries to return the money the Jewish leaders paid him, but they aren’t interested. Responding in anger, he throws the money on the floor and goes out and kills himself.
Pilate’s only concern is whether or not Jesus has broken Roman law.
He asks Jesus “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus responds simply, “It is as you say.” While being accused by the Jewish leaders, He did not answer. Then Pilate questions Him and He does not answer even one single charge and Pilate was amazed. Pilate proclaims there is no basis for sentencing and he refers Jesus to King Herod who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questions Jesus and receives no answer; Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate.
Pilate’s wife has a dream and warns him to “have nothing to do with this righteous man.” Pilate realizes Jesus is innocent but, the Jewish leaders demand crucifixion. At Passover, Pilate often would release one criminal as a sign of goodwill to the Jewish people. He offered the crowd Jesus or the murderer Barabbas. The murderer was set free, and the innocent man was murdered. Jesus died in Barabbas’ place.
Pilate washes his own hands as a sign he has no part in this condemnation. However, in order to prevent a riot and ultimately to keep his job, Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus is stripped, beaten with whips, mocked, and beaten again.
Jesus carries His cross to the site of the execution. Finally, at about 9:00 am, Jesus is nailed to a cross and crucified along with two criminals. Jesus hung suspended between heaven and earth. He was mocked by the crowds and insulted by the religious leaders. Pilate has Jesus’ crime posted on the cross, above Christ’s head, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
Jesus agonized on the cross and then, at noon, the sun stopped shining. And until 3:00, the Light of the world hung in darkness.
At about 3:00, Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” and died. The veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, and the centurion cried out, “This man really was the son of God.”
Pilate requested confirmation from the centurion that Jesus was dead, a soldier pierced the side of Jesus causing blood and water to flow out. The centurion informed Pilate that Jesus was dead.
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Jesus, who had not consented to His condemnation, requests the body from Pilate. He and Nicodemus wrapped the body of Jesus in a clean linen shroud and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved out of a rock in a garden near the site of the crucifixion. They rolled a large rock over the entrance to the tomb. Then they returned home and rested because the Sabbath had begun at sunset.
The Darkest Dark
It was the “darkest dark” of all eternity. The spiritual darkness was even worse than the physical night. The one who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. As one old preacher said, “It was such a horrible sight, the sun refused to shine, and the Son hung between heaven and earth in darkness.”
It was not only physically dark but spiritually dark. I wonder if anyone really noticed?
Although Friday is a solemn time, it is not without its own joy. For while it is important to place the Resurrection against the darkness of Good Friday, the gravity of Good Friday should always be seen with the hope of Resurrection Sunday.
Something to think about
On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’s death in our place. Like Barabbas, we deserved death, but we were set free while the innocent man was crucified.
Friday was a dark and desperate day. The King of Glory died at the hands of sinners. But “It’s only Friday, Sunday’s coming!” We must always see the gravity of Good Friday in the hope of Resurrection Sunday.
Jesus died for you
God made Him, who did not know sin, to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (from 2 Cor 5:21, John 3:16, Romans 5:8)
This means nothing you can do will make Him love you anymore, and nothing you can do will make Him love you any less!
It is always darkest before the light shines through and hope explodes on the horizon!
In case you have missed the previous blogs, I’ve included their links below. It is not too late to read them and meditate on the events of Holy Week prior to and including Christ’s journey.