Sunday, April 9, 2017
The Sunday next before Easter commonly called Palm Sunday, the start of “Holy Week” and a time that most people just associate with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
The Sunday next before Easter is commonly referred to as Palm Sunday. The period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is often referred to as Holy Week. Most churchgoing people go to church on Palm Sunday, then to church on Easter Sunday. It’s a fairly uplifting time with not a lot of thinking. On Palm Sunday Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday there’s the joyous resurrection. What’s not to like about that?
The thing is, there is a tremendous amount that goes on between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, not all of it joyous, in fact most of it is pretty scary or sad. The beginning of the week was wonderful; in the end the week was even more wonderful. In between was a series of ups and downs the ups a little high and the downs very very deep. It is important to remember as you go through Holy Week that Jesus was in control of all the events of the week. The week starts with the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ends with the death of the Savior on the Cross and the burial of his body in the tomb. It is a week of ups and downs without parallel, the ups a little high and the downs very very deep, deep as Hell you might say, and precedes the most joyous day of the year, the Day of the Resurrection or Easter Sunday.
Jesus has a triumphant entry into the city on the First Day of the Week (Sunday); on Thursday night he celebrates the Passover with his disciples in the Upper Room, he prays and agonizes over what he knows is coming in the garden of Gethsemane; Judas betrays him early Friday morning, his most trusted disciple denies him, not once but three times before the cock crew; the Jews condemn him to Pilate who in turn orders him to be beaten and humiliated; that does not satisfy the Jews and at their request, Pilate condemns a man he knows to be innocent to a horrible death to pacify the crowd of Jews assembled by the priests; Jesus is crucified, asks John to take care of his mother and gives up the ghost; his body is taken down and buried; the disciples are dispersed and discouraged; they have listened to their Lord, but not understood.
Think of this week from the disciples’ perspective, on the first day they enter with their leader into Jerusalem in triumph; mid-week they celebrate the joyous feast of the Passover, then their leader is betrayed, defends himself not and is killed. At the time they surely could not think of this as a Holy Week and certainly not a Good Friday. Yet on the first day of the week that follows, our Lord is Risen, Risen indeed and delivers the promise of salvation in person.
It is important to remember as you go through Holy Week that Jesus was in control of all the events of the week.
What a week!
On Monday, Jesus preached in the Temple and further distanced Himself from the people’s vision and demonstrated God’s vision. He went in to the temple and through out the vendors selling “sacrificial” birds and animals at exorbitant cost, as well as the moneychangers, changing Roman money for Temple money dishonestly. Far from announcing Himself head of the temple, He announced they had made His Father’s house a den of thieves. Rather than working within the Jewish establishment, He over turned it!
Jesus and the Pharisees dispute in the Temple. He left for the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. There he delivers the “Mount of Olives Discourse”. Judas agrees to betray him to the Jewish priests for 30 pieces of silver.
The Sanhedrin was gathered together and decided to kill Jesus, even before Pesach if possible. In the meantime, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. Here he was anointed on his head by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with very expensive ointment of spikenard. Some of the disciples, particularly Judas Iscariot, keeper of the purse, were indignant about this; the oil could have been sold to support the poor. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” In this case, Judas recalls to mind many politicians. Jesus reminded them of the importance of first things first and the futility of giving, rather than helping, when He said in Matthew 26.11 “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered them his support in exchange for silver. From this moment on Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. Judas spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he came on his plan.
At the Passover Feast, Jesus and his disciples share the “Last Supper” and He washes their feet. Jesus blesses his bread and wine as his flesh and blood and shares it with his disciples, the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. As Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”
At this same dinner, the disciples manage to quarrel over who should be the boss of who. Jesus tells them he came in the role of a servant, as He is their master, their role is likewise that of servants. In a move designed to reveal both His knowledge aforehand and our frailty, He tells Peter that Peter will deny Him thrice fore the cock croweth, or dawn breaks. Peter, a loyal follower, denies what will be shown as clear fact. Remember the further you let yourself get from the Lord, the weaker you are. Weakness grows with the cube of the distance. Stay close.
As the dinner goes on, Jesus tells them one of them will betray Him. Not able to grasp that any of them would literally betray Him, each asks, “Is it I?” Judas knows.
Jesus tells the disciples things are heating up, counsels them to arm themselves and goes out to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. Disciples come with Him, despite their best efforts, they fall asleep. Night has long fallen, the end of the day is near by our reckoning. The end is near for Jesus here on earth. Even nearer for Judas.
Good Friday was the day in which Jesus was tried by the Jews, tried by Pilate, condemned, crucified, died and was buried. Except in hindsight, this was not a Good Friday at all.
In the early hours before sunup, Jesus is betrayed by the “Judas Kiss” and arrested. At sunrise, he is disowned by Peter thrice before the cock croweth. When brought before Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest, and his Council, he is condemned. He says that he will rise from death after three days.
They hand him over to the Roman authority, Pontius Pilate, who sends him to Herod (Antipas, the son of Herod the Great). Then Pilate asks the crowd who he is to pardon: a murderer, or Jesus? The crowd chooses Barabas and Jesus is sentenced to death. Pilate’s actions made famous the line, “I wash my hands of this.” While he might have attempted to wash the guilt for the murder of the world’s one truly innocent man on to the Jews, he remains the one who condemned him to death. Pilate was nothing if not a politician and bureaucrat. The condemnation was to him the simplest solution to the problem of a Jewish hierarchy’s manufactured crowd’s anger. What was the death of one Jew to him? Yet he was worried enough to attempt to wash his hands of the guilt.
Jesus is brought to Calvary, where on the “third hour” (9 am) he is crucified. He is mocked as he hangs between the Bad Thief and the Good Thief, whom he blesses. On the “sixth hour” (noon), darkness covers the land. Jesus cries out “My God, My God, hast Thou forsaken Me? ”
After drinking wine, he commits his spirit to his Father and dies. Matthew reports an earthquake that destroys the Temple. Many understand now that Jesus was the Son of God. His body is taken down and anointed. He is buried in a new tomb donated by Joseph of Arimethea. This is the first day of death.
The Jewish Council remembers his vow to return and has the tomb guarded and sealed with a heavy stone. His followers stay in the “Easter Vigil”. Second day of death.
On the third day of death, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find the tomb empty, but for an angel who tells them Jesus is already resurrected and is on His way to Galilee. On their way to tell the others, Jesus appears to them. Death is conquered, the Promise delivered. Our lives from this day forward are eternal!
Think about the Week that was!
The reason Jesus came to Jerusalem at the Passover was to take the place of the yearly sacrifice by one perfect sacrifice, one time, for all time and for all mankind. His was the blood marking our door that the destroyer might pass over. The week started on a triumphant note and ended up trying to do between there were windows into the future, glimpses of the past, moments of despair, moments of terror, moments of confusion; but in the end joy and the ultimate triumph.
 The tomb was a new one which had been hewn for Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph, a native of Arimathea, was apparently a man of wealth, and probably a member of the Sanhedrin an "honourable counsellor, who waited (or "was searching") for the kingdom of God", according to John, he was secretly a disciple of Jesus. As soon as he heard the news of Jesus' death, he "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." Pilate, reassured by a centurion that the death had really taken place, allowed Joseph's request. Joseph immediately purchased fine linen and went to Golgotha to take the body down from the cross. There, assisted by Nicodemus, he took the body and wrapped it in the fine linen, sprinkling it with the myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus had brought. The body was then conveyed to the new tomb in rock in his garden nearby. There they laid it, in the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other women, and rolled a great stone to the entrance, and departed. This was done speedily, "for the Sabbath was drawing on". Joseph of Arimathea appears in some early New Testament apocrypha.
Although there are no written records until the fifth century, tradition holds Joseph of Arimethea, who provided the tomb for the burial of Jesus Christ, brought Christianity and the Holy Grail to England in 37 AD and built a church in Glastonbury in Somerset.