If Jesus fulfilled His promise about rising from the dead, He is surely capable of and surely will fulfill all of His promises!
Origin of Holy Week
I am writing this post on Holy Week of 2020. This week is also referred to as Passion Week, Resurrection Week, and Easter Week. Holy Week is always the week before Easter Sunday, and because Easter Sunday falls on a different day each year, so does Holy Week.
Obviously, Holy Week originated in the Bible, specifically through the gospel narratives that record some of the events that took place the week before Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, when did we start celebrating and remembering Holy Week annually?
Before we answer this question, I want to point out that Christians started celebrating Easter Sunday shortly after the resurrection took place, in fact, you can read about it in Acts 20:7. Easter was and is a weekly celebration of the Church coming together on Sundays. Every time you gather with your local church on Sundays, you are technically celebrating Easter. However, along with the question about Holy Week, when did we start celebrating Easter annually?
Ready for the answer? NOBODY KNOWS! Now, I know that isn’t super helpful, but it’s true. However, let me give you some helpful information in regards to the origin of Holy Week and Easter as annual celebrations.
Both were celebrated very early into the Church’s existence. Holy Week was being celebrated by the 4th century at the latest. We know this because 4th century church fathers like Athanasius write about it. Additionally, it is likely that Easter was celebrated annually after the first year of Jesus’ resurrection or shortly after; it’s not an American thing, people from all places and cultures have always been big on remembering and celebrating things on an annual basis.
We also know that certain practices from Holy Week originated fairly early on as well. A woman named Egeria writes of her pilgrimage to Jerusalem during Holy Week in the late 4th century and mentions specifically the celebration of Palm Sunday.
Nevertheless, we can declare today that Holy Week and Easter Sunday have been celebrated throughout the ages, and are being celebrated around the world and by the majority.
So what do we remember each day for?
Scripture References: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, John 12:9–19
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey (The Triumphal Entry) making his first public appearance since raising Lazarus from the dead. He was received like a celebrity. In fact, people laid down their cloaks and branches to create a red carpet of sorts. Additionally, the people made innuendos to the fact that they thought Jesus was the long awaited king referenced by the Old Testament, and they shouted “Hosanna,” meaning, “Savior.”
Scripture References: Matthew 21:12-22, Mark 11:12–19, Luke 19:45–48
Jesus begins His work week by doing some passionate preaching and even flips over some tables in the temple. We learn that the weak and hurting ran to Jesus and that the religious leaders wanted to run off Jesus… or worse.
Scripture References: Matthew 21:23-26:5, Mark 11:27–14:2, Luke 20:1–22:2, John 12:37–50
After Jesus’ grand entrance on Sunday and fiery preaching on Monday, we learn that Jesus is just getting started. He wakes up His disciples on Tuesday morning wanting to teach some more.
When they arrive, it’s not just his fans and followers in attendance, but the religious leaders who wanted Him gone sat in also. Jesus further stirs the pot by rightly calling out the religious leaders so boldly and clearly that they say, “He is talking about us.”
Afterwards, we are told that they are going to start putting together a plan to have Jesus killed.
Scripture References: Matthew 26:6–16, Mark 14:3–11, Luke 22:3–6
Jesus takes a break from preaching and teaching and does some pastoral care and counseling. He visits the home of Simon the Leper, a home that no other religious leaders would dare visit. While there, Mary the sister of Lazarus comes over and anoints Jesus with extremely expensive perfume, likely the most expensive possession she has. Did she know that Jesus was going to die and she was prepping Him for burial, or did she simply give her most expensive possession to symbolize that she was all-in as a follower of His? We don’t know, perhaps both.
NOT SO FUN FACT: Wednesday is also referred to as “Spy Wednesday,” because behind-the-scenes, the religious leaders are recruiting Judas Iscariot to spy on Jesus and betray Him.
Scripture References: Matthew 26:17-75, Mark 14:12–72, Luke 22:7–71, John 13:1–18:27
Notice the length of the Scripture references above, what a beast. Where some of the earlier days lack content about Holy Week and we have to make educated assumptions about what happened, Thursday is packed full of details.
This is the day that Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, they eat together (The Last Supper), and He tells His disciples that one of them will betray Him.
After dinner, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane, located at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, and spends time praying some very intense prayers.
His prayers are interrupted by His betrayer, Judas Iscariot, who was arrived with a group armed with clubs and swords. Jesus was taken captive and delivered to the Jewish religious leaders for a secret trial in the middle of the night. However, this trial was far from fair. The religious leaders mocked Jesus, spit on Him, punched Him, and even pulled hair from His beard.
During this so-called trial, Jesus’ most loyal disciples deny Him and abandon Him.
Scripture References: Matthew 27:1-61, Mark 15:1–47, Luke 23:1–56, John 18:28–19:42
After the religious leaders declare Jesus guilty of the high crime of claiming to be God, they want Him to have the death penalty. However, they do not have the authority to carry out the death penalty, only the Romans do, therefore, they deliver Jesus to the local Roman leader with the authority to make that decision, Pontius Pilate.
Through a series of events, Pontius Pilate has Jesus severely beaten in hopes that the religious leaders would be satisfied. They weren’t. Jesus was then sentenced to death by crucifixion. Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns that was jammed into His skull, is mocked and beaten as He carries His cross to the site of His execution. Once there, He is nailed to the cross and lifted up, where He hung for several hours.
While on the cross, Jesus prays for the forgiveness of those involved in the events of the day. Then, with His final breath, He declares, “It is finished.”
Once it appears that Jesus is dead, the Romans make sure the job is done by stabbing Jesus through the heart with a spear.
Jesus’ cross is then lowered and He is taken to His burial site, a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.
Scripture References: Matthew 27:62-66
Whereas Thursday has the most content, Saturday has the least. However, what is mentioned about Saturday is very important.
On Saturday, the religious leaders went to Pontius Pilate to request that the tomb would be guarded because Jesus said that He would resurrect after His death. Whether or not the religious leaders believed that or not, the thought haunted them, and at the least, they thought that somebody might steal the body and cause an uproar by claiming that Jesus resurrected. Pilate agrees and sends soldiers to guard the temple.
Once that request is granted, it is likely that the religious celebrated. However, Jesus’ disciples wept. But in the minds of both the religious leaders and Jesus’ disciples, the words, “I will rise,” offered horror to the former and hope to the latter.
Scripture References: Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1–8, Luke 24:1–53, John 20:1–21:25
He is risen! The women (we don’t know everybody or how many) went to visit Jesus’ burial site and anoint His body, but when they arrived, there were angels present that told them that Jesus was not there, but that He had risen.
The disciples didn’t believe the women and a couple of them went to the tomb to see for themselves. Sure enough, Jesus was not there.
Shortly after, Jesus appeared to His disciples and their tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy. However, this was not Jesus only appearance. We are told that Jesus stayed on earth 40 more days until He ascended into heaven and that He socialized with 500+ people.
Two Easter Sunday Takeaways
ONE: Easter is God’s receipt of approval that the payment of the cross for our sins has been accepted by Him. It is God the Father saying to Jesus, “Well done, rise,” and God the Father saying to us, “My Son has purchased your salvation.”
TWO: If Jesus fulfilled His promise about rising from the dead, He is surely capable of and surely will fulfill all of His promises!