Holy Week: Do you know what it means?
I can’t believe Easter is just around the corner! Spring is my favorite time of year for a few reasons; but ultimately it reminds me of the new life I have in Christ.
Because of what Jesus has done for all of us, we can start anew. Just as spring is a new beginning to the world around us, we can have a new beginning in our lives when we ask Jesus into our hearts. Last year when I was newly out of the LDS Church I didn’t give much thought to Holy Week. As a Mormon, my family celebrated on Easter Sunday, and that was it. There was no special Sunday service at church and no real acknowledgment of why this is such a special time of year. As part of my growth as a new Christian and walk with the Lord, I wanted to take the time to learn about Holy Week and share what I learn with all of you.
Holy Week is the last week of Lent. The four special days of this week I would like to address are: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
This Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter. It is spoken of in Matt 2:1-11, Luke 19:28-44 and Mark 11:1-11. Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village to get a colt; specifically, a donkey that had never been ridden. If they were questioned they were to say it (the donkey) was for the Lord. They placed their coats on the colt for Jesus to sit upon as he rode in the village. The townspeople laid down their coats in front of Him, and laid down branches of trees (palms) while proclaiming Him as their King.
I find it very interesting that Jesus chose to ride in on a donkey, a “beast of burden” into town. He could have chosen another comfortable mode of transportation in those days, yet He chose a donkey to show that He saw Himself as servant to the people.
Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday
This day marks four things; the washing of the disciple’s feet by Jesus (John 13:5-20), the institution of the Last Supper (Mark 14:22-31), the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32:42), and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:21).
When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet he again made himself as a servant to his disciples. Peter was confused as to why Jesus was doing this. He didn’t understand that Jesus was trying to teach him that to be a leader, you must be a servant. At the Last Supper (or The Lord’s Supper), Jesus introduced the practice of communion to his disciples. Known as the “Upper Room Discourse” in the Bible, let us read what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 22:17-20;
“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: 18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. 19 ¶ And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
With the completion of the Last Supper, Jesus took His disciples into the night air to pray at His favorite place; the Garden of Gethsemane. In the Greek, we know this to mean, “Olive Press”. Jesus charged His disciples to “watch and pray” while He went to His Father in prayer. It was in the Garden that Jesus began preparing Himself for the bitter cup that was foreordained before the foundation of the world.
Jesus’ obedience is displayed for us in the descriptions of Dr. Luke’s Gospel. It is here we learn of Jesus’ great distress, so horrible was His agony that great drops of sweaty blood dripped from His Holy body onto the ground. This physical phenomenon is well documented from medical doctors. A study was performed at the Mayo Clinic of Jesus’ experience in the Garden as well as His crucifixion. Here in part is Dr. C. Truman Davis’ explanation of what Jesus endured just in the Garden alone;
“The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of His initial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is the bloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the only evangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, “And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44 KJV).
Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone could have produced marked weakness and possible shock.” (1)
We can see that as Jesus was in the Garden, He prayed intensely; becoming yet another example for us in learning obedience by accepting the cup the Father handed to Him. When He was done praying, He told the disciples in John 18:11,
“Come, shall I not partake of the cup which the Father has given me to do?” It is clear that the sacrifice was yet to come.
There are many places in His word that says the sacrifice for our sin took place on the cross. Be sure to look for the phrase in the New Testament, “without the walls” or “outside the walls” as in Hebrews 13:12 and John 19:17, where it tells us they led him away to Golgotha, the place of the skulls. Golgotha was a common place where those guilty of crimes worthy of death were crucified. Not incidentally, it was also the place where Adam was buried. Golgotha was notorious for being ceremonially unclean as it also served as the place where the heads of malefactors were thrown.
Jesus could not have become sin for us in any other place but on the Cross of Calvary. It is there that He literally became our sin. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says;
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
Good Friday is also called Holy Friday or Great Friday. This is the day that our Lord and Savior was crucified and died for our sins. Since leaving the LDS church 1 Corinthians 1:18 has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible,
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
In the LDS Church the cross has no real importance, it’s offensive to them. For Christians the cross is what reconciles us to God. Jesus had to endure the shame of the cross and become accursed as Paul told the Galatians in 3:13, while explaining that Jesus took the curse of death from us as mentioned in the passage from Deuteronomy above;
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”
This Sunday is as you know, the day that Jesus rose from the grave. He is alive and wants us to come to Him. I can remember being very young maybe five or six years old. On an Easter Sunday after we were given our Easter baskets my dad sat down with my sister and me at the kitchen table and asked us what Easter was about.
My sister being two years younger than me said “the Easter bunny”, being the big sister I had to correct her and tell her “No, it was about Jesus.” As a child that young it was impossible for me to wrap my head around what Jesus truly did for me, and why it is so special and important. I just knew that the day was special because “it was about Jesus”.
As an adult, and now a saved Christian, I can’t imagine someone loving me enough to die for me. That’s what Jesus did; He loved us all enough to die for us. So we would not have to die in our sins and be separated from God forever, the perfect Lamb who was sinless became my Lord and my God.
My heart goes out to the LDS people. I wish they could know who their Savoir truly is. He’s not their spirit brother, He’s God. He left His throne and became flesh, died on the Cross at Calvary for all of us and then on the third day God raised Him from the dead!
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the only way to the Father, not membership in a certain church, not temple attendance, or even abstaining from certain drinks. It’s Jesus, only Jesus.