How is your life shaped by Easter week? I mean other than the obligatory 3 pounds that is about to be added to your waistline courtesy of honey baked ham, deviled eggs, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups (if you’re going to put on the weight, it might as well be good… not Peeps or generic jelly beans!)?
It has often been noted that the final week of Jesus’ life takes up a disproportionate amount of the gospel narratives. Approximately a third of the gospel accounts are devoted to the final week of Jesus’ life:
· 8 of 28 chapters in Matthew
· 6 of 16 chapters in Mark
· 5 of 24 chapters in Luke
· 9 of 21 chapters in John
Of the 52 weeks of our year, Holy Week is highlighted and underlined. On this week the other 51 weeks of our year hang, on this week, the other 51 are shaped.
How does the Holy Week shape our lives?
1) Palm Sunday reminds us how different the true King is.
Our king comes riding a donkey! Our king will conclude the week not as those receiving him expected: by wearing Pilate’s crown, but rather by wearing the crown of thorns. The power of Jesus’ kingdom is in its weakness and humility. The Kingdom of God advances through our humility and suffering.
Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19
2) Monday reminds us that Jesus hates those who pervert faith and make the outward blessing of faith a cul-de-sac.
On Monday, Jesus curses the fig tree that hasn’t produced fruit and then clears the temple of the money changers. With both actions, Jesus critiques religious people who fail to reflect God’s heart. What use is a fig tree if it doesn’t bear fruit? How scandalous are those at the temple who rip off those who have come from other nations to worship the true God at his house? How has our Christianity distorted the heart of God? How is my Christianity not displaying the fruits of the Spirit? How is our Christianity not reflecting God’s heart for the nations?
Matthew 21:12-22; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48
3) Tuesday reminds us that outward religiosity will lead to judgment and that the future is in God’s hands.
Tuesday begins with Jesus and the disciples passing the fig tree he cursed, which has now withered. The tree is a startling reminder of God’s judgment. Jesus continues to warn of God’s judgment when he says the religious leaders are blind guides and whitewashed tombs: “beautiful on the outside” but on the inside filled with death. “How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Jesus asks? Heading to the Mount of Olives with his disciples, Jesus then prophesies of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and his second coming and final judgment. Meanwhile, Judas is negotiating Jesus’ betrayal with the Sanhedrin. This might lead us to think that Jesus’ life is spinning out of his control, but the opposite is true. The betrayal leads to the cross. And the cross is the only way we may escape the impending judgment.
Matthew 21:23-51; Mark 11:20-13:37; Luke 20:1-21:36; John 12:20-38
4) Wednesday reminds us of our need for rest and community.
Nothing is recorded of Wednesday in the gospels. Jesus likely spends the day resting in Bethany with his close friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in preparation for the final days of his life.
5) Thursday reminds us that we love one another by humbly serving one another.
Jesus shares the Passover Feast with his disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. There, the master lowers himself to the role of the lowest servant and washes the feet of his disciples. He then shares that he is the Lamb of God, who fulfills the Passover promise, by being broken and shedding blood for his followers. Jesus concludes that night in Gethsemane with his disciples, praying in agony to God and submitting himself to his Father’s will. In the midst of the crushing weight of his impending death and separation from his Father, Jesus looks to the needs of others. Even in the midst of despair, Jesus serves.
Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-62; John 13:1-38
6) Good Friday reminds us that Christ atoned for our sins through his death on the cross.
Late Thursday night Jesus was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest. Under the protection of darkness, Jesus’ sham trial gets underway. Outside, Peter denies Jesus three times before sunrise breaks. Early Friday morning, the betrayer Judas, filled with remorse, hangs himself.
Meanwhile, Jesus is falsely accused, shuttled between the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate, mocked, beaten, and abandoned by almost all of his followers. His broken body carries the heavy weight of the wicked Roman torture device to Golgatha.
On the cross, Jesus speaks seven final statements, including words of forgiveness, pain, and the promise of heaven to the contrite thief who hangs on the cross next to him. At 3pm, Jesus breathes his last breath and dies. The veil in the temple tears from the top to bottom: the atoning work of the perfect Lamb of God has gained humanity access to the very presence of God.
Jesus’ side is pierced by the soldiers and around 6pm, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus’ body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb. The Son of God has died.
Matthew 27:1-62; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 22:63-23:56; John 18:28-19:37
7) Holy Saturday reminds us that Jesus was separated from God so that we do not have to be.
Roman soldiers guard Jesus’ tomb, and Nicodemus treats Jesus’ body for burial with perfumed ointment and spices in sheets of cloth.
What was happening spiritually on this day stretches our human understanding to the breaking point. The Son of God bore our sin and was separated from God the Father. How could one person of the Triune God take on sin? Based on 1 Peter 4:6, we say in the Apostles’ Creed that on Holy Saturday Jesus “descended into hell.” What does all of this mean? How could one person of the Triune God be dead? How could one person of the Triune God be separated from the others? How could Jesus descend to hell? We won’t know until we meet Christ face to face. What we do know is that Jesus endured untold suffering and anguish and that he bore the cost of our sin. He was separated from God so that we wouldn’t have to be. This is the mystery and beauty of Holy Saturday.
Matthew 27:62-66; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:56; John 19:40; 1 Peter 4:6
8) Resurrection Sunday reminds us that death and evil have been defeated by Jesus Christ!
Early Sunday morning several women go to the tomb and discover that the stone covering the entrance of the tomb has been rolled away. An angel declares, “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” Jesus then makes five appearances over the course of Resurrection Sunday: to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and then to the apostles (except for Thomas) who were gathered in a house.
In Jesus Christ’s death; our sins are atoned for, in his resurrection, the power of death and sin over us is broken. If we believe in Christ, then our old selves die with him in his death, and we are resurrected to new life with him in his resurrection.
Matthew 28:1-13; Mark 16:1-14; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-23.
There is no better news than the news of Holy Week. There is no better week to shape our lives: lives broken by sin and condemned to death, but atoned for and resurrected by the work of the very Son of God. May this Holy Week shape our lives. May others look at us and see the cross. May others look at us and see the resurrection. May others look at us and see Jesus.