It’s a word used in many different ways from “holy cow” to “holy, are you Lord.” We hear it in church. We hear it in class, at work, on the street, in the grocery store, and in television shows.
We hear it in the Bible, too. It is Holy Week.
How many times, though, have we stopped to think about what this word truly means?
If we hear it so often, how come we never wonder about it’s meaning?
I think it’s time to begin wondering and understanding just what this word means.
And they were calling out to one another: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.
I think of it a lot like a flame on a candle, no two are alike. Every flame is burning for a cause, but every motivation is slightly different, every gift is different, and every person in special. We are each different flames, but the biggest light is set apart from all, holy in every way.
It’s 5:30 or so in the morning (aka too stinking early) and darkness is still dominating the sky. I’m traveling back to Berry with my dad and we are listening to The Message, a christian music station, on Sirius XM. This is our tradition, if you will, while we are traveling in the car. We listen and sing along to all our favorite songs they play. One minute we are listening to Jeremy Camp’s “I’ll Take You Back” and next there is a guy talking about Holy Week. I had never heard of him before, but he really caught my attention. His name is Andrew Peterson and I came to find out that he wrote a series of worship albums called “The Resurrection Letters.” They illustrate the importance of Holy Week and the events leading up to Jesus’ death. As I listened to him talk about the meaning of each song, I felt drawn to understand.
It’s well known that this week is in fact Holy Week, but do we know well the facts of Holy Week?
Did I get you with this question?
I got myself, too.
I cannot begin to explain how convicting it is to think about Holy Week and how uncommonly studied or understood it is among many Christians.
How can we truly appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus on Friday and how can we walk with Him in His suffering without understanding what happened prior?
Do you see why this is convicting?
As I sat in my dad’s truck, there was one song that really caught my attention, but a few lyrics in particular struck me. I recommend that you give it a listen before you keep reading.
So, when I heard this song this morning, this lyric really got me.
“You laid down your life And you suffered like I never could. And you’re always good.”
Andrew Peterson: Always Good
He suffered like I never could, like we never could.
After I heard this, I was flooded with an image. I want to share it with you…
The cross is planted on the hill where Jesus was sent to pay, to die, to sacrifice. He is there. He has suffered the ultimate pain.
In one moment, the world was alight, but in an instant: darkness. Every believer followed Jesus, trusted Jesus, and knew Jesus. They held their candles high, serving as a light for all the world. As Jesus breathed His last breath, one by one the hope faded. Candles began losing their flame, their light, their glow.
The whole world was covered with darkness.
This is so powerful, isn’t it?
It’s easy feel the power of this image, to be moved by it, and to truly have this desire to feel reverent of this event.
But it’s so easy to just stop there, to not go any further, and to not understand.
Yes. This image is powerful and it is supposed to be; however, I can only imagine just how much more powerful this image would be if we understood the events that lead up to it, the events of Holy Week.
So, let’s begin.
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!”
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!
Palm Sunday marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which initiates His final week of life. To understand all of what happened, Matthew retells the occurrences in Matthew 21. I suggest you read it before you continue on.
After understanding He was destined to fulfill a prophecy of riding a donkey into the city, written in Zechariah, which declares that the King is coming to His people. In my opinion, Jesus fulfilling this prophecy illustrates that God reigns true over His promises and nothing He pursues is void. Secondly, we should pay close attention to the people paving the way; they lined up, side by side, making the way to Jerusalem clear for Jesus. They greeted Jesus with unique enthusiasm with palm branches, which served as a symbol of well-being and victory. Interestingly enough, at the end of the Bible in Revelation, people will still wave palm branches. We can see how this is a symbol of Christ’s victory over death now, but then the people were not sure of Christ’s mission; however, they were excited about it, as many threw off their cloaks as a message of submission and belief in the Messiah.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”
Early Monday morning, Jesus and his disciples awoke in Bethany, a town about a mile away from Jerusalem. They were traveling back to Jerusalem after staying with some trusted friends, assumed to be Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Jesus was on a mission to continue purifying the hearts of people and teach the truth. He wasn’t going to treat this Monday like the rest of us, in annoyance and timidness, but rather clarify and preach. He was going to clarify that judgement and change begins at home, in Israel. They were walking together to the terrain of Mount of Olives and begin to get very hungry. He saw a fig tree that from a distance looked very healthy and full of life, but as he got closer he noticed that the tree was barren of fruit. He cursed the tree and it immediately withered. In the Old Testament, Israel was commonly referred to as a fig tree, which serves to symbolize Israels failure to cultivate Christ in their lives, resulting in fruitless lives. As they arrived to the Mount that day, Jesus was surrounded by corrupt individuals and robbers with lust enough to kill, calling them to purify their inner lives.
“It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.”
He begins overturning these men’s tables and chairs that were set up in the Temple and forcing them to leave.
We can know that Jesus calls us to bear fruit on multiple occurrences in the Bible and desires for us to cultivate Him in our lives.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain. Go, throw yourself into the sea and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
It’s morning again and Jesus is with His disciples. They are in Jerusalem once again and they pass the fig tree from the previous day, which the disciples learn a lesson from: have unswerving faith in God. The disciples are about to face great trials in their faith and I figure Jesus was hoping they would remember this withered fig tree on the road.
At the Temple, religious leaders continue to challenge Jesus’ authority, trying to attack him, and arrest him, but Jesus yelled at them.
"Blind guides! ... For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people's bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness...Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?"
After much continued confrontation, they left to head back to Bethany, but stop at Mount Olives to rest. From here, you can see Jerusalem, and the sun beginning to set. The disciples look out in wonder of the buildings, but Jesus tells them that there will soon be a day where none of that exists. He tells them about the ending of the age and the ending of Jerusalem. He tells the Twelve to, above all, remain faithful and persevere, for He is fully in control. He knows what He is doing and He knows what is coming.
With an exhausting day over, they rest again in Bethany.
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
In my research, I have found very little information about what Jesus did on the fourth day of this week. It is known as Spy Wednesday because this was the day that Judas agreed to betray Jesus for thirty silver pieces, as said above in Matthew 26:14-16, in Mark 14:10-11, and in Luke 22:1-6.
It’s said, by many scholars, that Jesus took a day of rest with His disciples and close friends. He spent time with Mary and Martha in Bethany and anticipated Passover, many speculate.
“I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won't eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”
In the evening after sunset, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and prepared them for Passover, proving how we should love one another without ceasing.
Jesus and the Twelve are gathered around a table, sharing in fellowship and food. I would tell you to go and read the entirety of the Last Supper.
He was preparing to be the last Passover sacrifice for mankind. He first predicts the betrayal of himself, saying “truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
During this meal, He broke the bread for His disciples, saying “this is my body, which is given for you.” He then pours the wine and says, “this is my blood.”
They enjoy their last supper and later Jesus was arrested by the Sanhedrim, the royal court of Israel.
Jesus spent the nigh in prison. At the crack of the day, He took the journey to Rome where He encountered Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea. He found no reason to charge Jesus, so He was sent back to Herod. Jesus refused to answer Herod’s questions, so He was sent back to Pilate. Pilate still thought Jesus to be innocent, but feared the crowds that wanted Jesus crucified, so he sentenced Jesus to death. He was mocked, beaten, and struck on the head. He was crowned with thorns and stripped naked. He was then made to carry His cross to Calvary.
He hung here, suffering, for six hours before he took His final breath.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Darkness then covered the land, as every last candle was blown out. Nobody could see hope, even though it was right around the corner.
He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus' body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth.
By six the previous night, Nicodemus and Joseph had placed Jesus’ body down from the cross and lay it in the tomb. Both of these men that sent Jesus to death were apart of Sanhedrim and secret followers of Him. They were afraid to proclaim the name of Jesus because of their positions in the community. They came out of hiding to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
While His body laid dead, His sacrifice for us was and is, living and breathing. He secured our eternal salvation.
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
"Don't be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen."
On the third day, Mary Magdalene and several other women came to the tomb of Jesus to anoint the body with myrrh. An earthquake rolled away the stone and revealed that Jesus’ body was not present. They were, of course, shocked. The man present instructed the women to see it for themselves, then told them to go tell the disciples. They ran to tell them, overjoyed. Soldiers were bribed with a large sum of money to say that the disciples had stolen the body in the middle of the night; however, no one could be fooled. It was clear that Jesus had been resurrected.
After his resurrection, He made at least five appearances to disciples and friends, encouraging them to remain strong in their faith and do not lose hope.
What do we do with all of this information?
I am challenging myself to read the events of each day, from scripture, throughout the week. I am challenging myself to reflect upon the occurrences and the strife that Jesus and the Twelve felt throughout this time.
I long to appreciate His sacrifice more, which can only be done if we gain a greater understanding of the events which lead up to it.
Yes, I know. This may not be the most awe-inspiring post I have ever written, but it is necessary to understand the journey Jesus took leading up to the cross.
I challenge you to read along in Scripture, taking this journey with Him all the way until Easter. Pray. Go back and read this post for each day, to remember just what happened.
Remember, then, that you are the flame at the end of the candle, alight for Jesus.
There is light all over the world.
You are the light.
Do not take this lightly, for at one point in history all candles ceased to glow.
But Jesus came back, set apart. He is holy.
And now we are forever shining for Him.
In life, we can become so fixated on our circumstances that we completely forget the truth behind Jesus’ identity. We forget that he is God with us.
In faith, we get to feeling stuck in the rut, feeling distant, feeling as though God is stagnant or absent, and being unsure of what to do next. This obvious silence and distance is often what turns people from Jesus, but we must persevere and remember that we live on God’s timing in God’s world.