Holy Week for 2016 is March 20–27. This week is anything but ordinary. Holy Week is one of, if not the, most sacred times of the Christian Year. Holy Week is what makes Christmas special.
We begin with Palm Sunday, sometimes referred to as Passion Sunday. On Palm Sunday we will ride with Jesus into Jerusalem. It would be his last ride into Jerusalem. On Palm Sunday, people cried out, “Hosanna.” By Good Friday, people cried out, “Crucify him.” On Palm Sunday, people called out for a new king. Rome was in control of Israel. The Zealots were calling for a revolt. Rome noticed this turning to Jesus as king and became a little paranoid.
On Monday, Jesus cleanses the temple. Money changers were required to turn pagan money into Jewish money. No money was to have the graven image of a human leader or god on it. Jewish money had no graven images. Money changers took advantage of the worshippers by not giving a fair exchange. The money changers, the High Priests and Sadducees, and Rome were profiting from this exercise. When Jesus cleansed the temple by driving out the money changers, he alienated Rome, the High Priests, and the Sadducees. The Zealots, however, loved it.
Later the same day, however, Jesus was asked about paying taxes. Jesus asked for a coin. He then asked who image was on the coins. The crowd replied Caesar. Jesus then challenged them to give unto Caesar that which is Caesars and to give unto God that which is God’s. This is profound when one remembers that we were created in the image of God. This is a powerful call, but it was not the answer the people wanted. The taxes went to Rome. No one wanted to pay taxes to the country that occupied them. Now, the Zealots are angry at Jesus as well. How dare he not condemn taxes to Rome? Perhaps he was not going to be the one who would lead a revolt.
On Tuesday, Jesus teaches on the steps of the Temple. He is under the windows of the offices of the Pharisees. Jesus looks across the valley to a cemetery on a hill and then offers a warning to the Scribes and Pharisees. They are the religious leaders, but Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs.” They look good on the outside, but were dead on the inside. These “woe sayings” insulted the Scribes and Pharisees to the point of rage.
By Tuesday, all the groups are now ready to crucify Jesus. Rome is paranoid, the religious leaders are infuriated, an the Zealots are both disappointed and enraged.
On Wednesday, Jesus is relatively silent. Perhaps he is on the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem where he often went to be with the disciples and to be alone with God. Those who hated Jesus were actively preparing a plot to eliminate him forever.
On Thursday, Jesus celebrates the Passover meal, as was his custom, with the disciples. Only this one was different. After the supper, Jesus took bread, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples. He said it was his body which was broken for them. He then took the cup, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples. He said it was his blood which was the blood of the new covenant with God and was given for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus also warns on this night that one was to betray him. Judas begins his task of turning Jesus over to the enemies.
Thursday night/Friday morning was a long night. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples. He went to pray, but his disciples could not stay awake with him. He was arrested and beaten. He was also denied three times by one of his own. He was scourged with a whip laced with chips of bone designed to rip the flesh. He had a mock trial, was delivered back and forth between Jewish and Roman leaders, and finally condemned to die at the request of the people.
On Friday morning, Jesus was lead to a hill called Golgotha, otherwise known as the place of the skull. We sometimes refer to this place as Calvary. There Jesus was crucified. At 9:00 am, spikes were driven into his hands and feet. He was then raised on the cross to die. Crucifixion was death by agony. At noon, darkness covers the land. By 3:00 p.m., Jesus cries out and then dies.
Saturday was agonizing. The disciples sat in fear and confusion. They were afraid for their own lives while at the same time grieved and confused as to what had happened to the one they believed to be the Messiah or Christ.
Sunday morning begins with turmoil. The tomb is empty. The women believed someone had stolen the body of Jesus. Had someone inflicted one more insult to this man who loved so many? Peter and John ran to the tomb only to find it empty. As people began to encounter the risen Christ, the word began to spread. HE IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN!
With the death and resurrection of the only begotten Son of God, sin and death are defeated forever for all who will accept and believe. This is a Holy Week. This was the week of ultimate victory. This must never be just another week.
During Holy Week, take time to read and reflect on Holy Week.
Palm Sunday Matthew 21:1-11
Monday Matthew 21:12-17; 22:15-22
Tuesday Matthew 23:1-39
Wednesday Matthew 25:1-46
Thursday Matthew 26:1-75
Friday Matthew 27:1-66
Saturday Reflect on what would have happened if this had been the end of the story.
Easter Sunday Matthew 28:1-20