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!
I am sitting here thinking about the metanarrative (Big Story) of the Bible (the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration) and how it explains the smaller stories in the Bible. It’s not a random line of thought nor is it a scholarly pursuit. I’m actually working on a 5 year Kids Camp series.
As I’m contemplating this, the air is pierced with the sound of a mother’s heart shattering, underscored by the quiet weeping of those too young to process such a loss as this.
Family and about 30 teens are gathered in the two waiting rooms next to ours and line the hallway, trying to sort out the circumstances that drew them all together at this particular moment in time.
The medical team had come to deliver news that no mother should ever have to hear.
The young man had made terrible choices. The night before he chose to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and was shot as a result.
“What does this have to do with the Big Story of the Bible?”you may ask. The answer is “EVERYTHING!”
There were others in the waiting rooms too. It was the church ministering God’s mercy and love declaring Gods plan of redemption as they loved on the boy’s mother, family and peers. The presence of these believers was telling the Big Story of the Bible as a whole.
They were fulfilling the purpose God had for them from before the beginning of time. In fact, they were created for such a time as this.
A mentor of mine once told me, “Times of crisis were natural times of ministry for all believers.” I understood that in terms of what “I could do.” Send cards, texts, visit the hospital, take a meal etc. Yes we should.
But it’s much bigger than that! It’s the metanarrative, the over arching story of redemption. Times of crisis are the church’s opportunity to tell the story of redemption.
Each one of us is a “smaller story” that is part of the bigger story! We are all created in God’s image for God’s glory. We are part of His plan from the very beginning. But because of the fall the world is now fractured. Without Christ we are broken, dead in our sins and without hope.
As believers we must live with our eyes wide open to the opportunities around us to share the redemption story! It is the role we play in the metanarrative.
Jesus and His disciples have made the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. People were being healed, demons were being cast out, miracles were happening and many believed. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was marked by crowds shouting “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches.
But as the week progressed there was a growing darkness as the crowds began to withdraw from Him. There was an ominous tone in the murmuring of the religious leaders who were threatened by Jesus’ teachings.
As Jesus and His disciples shared this last supper together they already stood in the shadow of the cross.
Later that night, after the meal, as Jesus and His disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane praying, Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas the High Priest. On Friday He would die.
You might be wondering what Maundy Thursday is. It is the beginning of the three day celebration of Easter – The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. It is the holiest time of the year for the Christian Church. Maundy Thursday commemorates the last supper Jesus had with His disciples. During the Last Supper Jesus redefined Passover, and that is the reason we celebrate the Resurrection instead.
Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum which is usually translated commandment. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet to serve as an example of humility and a servant’s heart. After the meal, as they walked into the night toward Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a “new” commandment that was not really new. (John 13:34-35)
It’s Thursday, the evening before Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus meets with His disciples for a last meal together, a last supper. It is Passover and Jerusalem is full of pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the celebration.
Jesus is spending His last hours with the men He had discipled. His teachings and illustrations are some of the most radical and amazing in all of the Bible. Five chapters of John’s gospel are the teachings from that evening. (John 13-17)
On His very last evening on earth Jesus, the Creator, washed the feet of the disciples, His creation.
The Passover, the reminder that it was God who set them free from slavery, embraced it’s full meaning that evening when the Lamb of God, who would in a few hours take away the sins of the world, helped the disciples see it in a fresh new way.
The Passover was deeply embedded in the Jewish consciousness. The traditions and the regulations had been passed down from generation to generation for almost 1500 years.
In that one night Jesus redefined what it meant in a way that radically altered history.
The Passover Meal
The Passover meal included
- unleavened bread, bread baked without yeast. It reminded them of the haste of the exodus, when there was no time to let the bread rise. And often in the Bible leaven represents sin. Jesus took a piece of the bread and broke it in half to pass around the table as men had done for generations but this time He said “take and eat, for this is My body”. The bread with no leaven represented the man with no sin.
- four cups of wine, each with a name taken from God’s promise to Moses in Exodus 6:6-8. The third cup is served immediately after the meal when the prayer of thanksgiving was offered.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:27–28
The name of the third cup? The cup of redemption.
Jesus’ blood redeems us from the slavery of sin. It was clear, they were sitting with the Lamb of God who would in a few hours shed His own blood to set men free from slavery to sin.
Why the church doesn’t keep Passover
In a recent conversation someone asked why the church today doesn’t celebrate/keep Passover.
- First, Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover, He is our Passover. When we celebrate communion we are remembering the freedom from sin provided by the Lamb of God.
- Second, every time we celebrate communion we are celebrating the Passover. Jesus changed the way we celebrate, and He added eternal value to the reason we celebrate. Every communion service is a Passover remembered.
During the Last Supper Jesus redefined Passover, and that is the reason we celebrate the Resurrection instead.
As the disciples made their way to the Garden on the western side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane the teaching continued. However, I chose to focus on this particular event – the event that radically changed history.
Something to think about
On Maundy Thursday Jesus explained Passover in a way the disciples had never seen it. Passover redefined, was all about the real Lamb of God whose blood was not just applied to a door post, but to the hearts of sinners. His blood cleanses us from all sin and sets us free. Wow!
Other events of the evening
There are several events that occur on this last day before Jesus was arrested.
The Last Supper (The Passover Meal)
The Institution of Communion
Jesus Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane while the disciples fell asleep
The Betrayal of Judas
This is the day that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples, four days after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Only hours after the Last Supper, Judas would betray Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, setting the stage for Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.
After Judas left the room, Jesus instituted something new, the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-24). He took two elements from the Passover Feast, the unleavened bread and the cup, and used them as a visual aide to picture His death which would bring forgiveness of sins.
- The broken bread was a picture of His body given for the sins of the world.
- The cup of wine pictured His blood which was shed for the remission of sins.
The Lord’s Supper reminds us to look ahead for Christ’s return. We will observe this supper until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
The Passover pointed ahead to the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) The Lord’s Supper announces that this work has been accomplished.
Later that evening Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, there Jesus surrendered His will to God’s will. We see such a clear picture here of both his deity and humanity. It was here that the victory was won.
As Jesus was agonizing in prayer His disciples were sleeping. He woke them up with the news that His betrayer was coming and they must go to meet him.
Readings for the day
Questions to ask yourself
Have you been set free?
Have you ever totally surrendered your life to Christ, and bowed before the one who died for you?
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.
It’s post Resurrection Sunday.
The squeals of delight at the discovery of a candy filled treasure have drifted away in the gentle spring breeze like the white fuzz of a dandelion. The only evidence left behind is an overlooked egg hiding in the tall grass.
The pageantry and programs with all their pomp and circumstance are packed away for another year.
Easter finery, so carefully chosen as adornment worthy of royals for this most hallowed day of the Christian calendar, is now deemed common hanging alongside apparel of the every day. (more…)
Kavya’s story is a beautiful picture of Gods love and redemption. As an 8 year old, Kavya has no idea yet how much God loves her and what she has been rescued from. But, I totally believe that God has a plan for this fearless, outgoing, lovable little girl. Kavya captures the hearts of all she comes in contact with. In fact her story begins with a heart that fell in love at first sight.
In 2009 Stephanie came with a team to India to do Kids Camp with children from the Veda School, when she fell deeply in love with a 4 year old named Kavya. Stephanie told her mother all about this cute little boy in the turquoise plaid shirt and shorts with a cute short hair cut. He seemed to have picked her out for his very own too, he stuck to her during the entire camp like glue!
About halfway through camp Stephanie mentioned the little boy to Prem, one of the national partners. “What is his name?” Prem inquired. Kavya! “Kavya is a girl’s name Stephanie.” “No, this Kavya is a boy!” She replied adamantly. He had someone take her and check her out. The verdict came back, “Yes, Kavya was definitely a girl!” Stephanie was not yet convinced and questioned Dolly if Kavya was a girls name, to which she replied that it was. Dolly had her checked and once again it was determined that Kavya was definitely a little girl!
Stephanie and her mother bought her a dress, which she wore every day of camp. (it was her only dress). They were inseparable as though joined at the hip. Stephanie would lovingly call her Kavyavyavia and she would flash a smile as big as Texas and call Stephanie Akka (big sister). (more…)