|Posted on March 30, 2018 at 12:00 AM|
Last Sunday marked the beginning of "Holy Week" with a celebration of Palm Sunday, the traditional day of the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. Riding on a young donkey, Jesus presented himself as the "suffering King of Israel" prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures. During the days that followed he demonstrated his spiritual authority as the Messiah by silencing his religious critics and prepared his disciples for his sacrificial death on the cross and victorious resurrection on the third day.
Following Palm Sunday, the primary traditions of the Holy Week include the celebration of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday and are meant to commemorate all that Jesus did for us during the last week of his public ministry. Observances of such traditional celebrations vary in detail among different religious groups, but all seek to remind the participants of important words and actions of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Like all traditions of men, the traditions of Holy Week are merely a "shadow" of the realities Jesus established through his eternal sacrifice on the cross.
Maundy Thursday, often called Holy Thursday, memorializes the events in the upper room where Jesus ate the Jewish Passover meal with his disciples and prepared them for what was about to come. It is called "Maundy (meaning commandment) Thursday" emphasizing the "new commandment" Jesus gave his disciples to love others as he loved them. It was during that "last supper" that Jesus instituted a new memorial meal we call "communion" (the bread and the wine) to commemorate the New Covenant of grace that he was about to sign with his own blood. Following the meal, he further illustrated the commandment to love others by washing his disciples feet and instructing them to do likewise.
Good Friday celebrations remember the events of the crucifixion of Jesus. Many celebrations involve solemn readings of the sayings of Jesus while on the cross. Although the crucifixion of Jesus was a horrific event, the effect it had on all mankind is nothing but good. Through the sacrificial death on the cross God not only crucified his only begotten son, but all who are joined to Christ through faith. The "old man" was crucified and buried with Christ so that a "new man" could be raised up to take his place. The eternal death of Jesus on the cross put to death the natural self-centered persons we were so that our sins could be forgiven. Little wonder Paul said he would not glory in anything except the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus is the only way we could become good!
The various celebrations of Easter, although tainted by the pagan traditions of men, are a picture of the new life we can now enjoy through the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Not only did God raise up his son, Jesus, from the tomb, but he has also "quickened us together with him" or made us alive in Christ and raised us up and seated us in heavenly places in Christ. The Easter celebrations signify our victory over death, hell, and the grave through the amazing grace of God in joining us to his son. I encourage you to take time this week to remember and celebrate, not just the shadows of these traditions, but the spiritual realities they represent.