I love to revisit the events of the last week of Jesus as we prepare for the great celebration of Resurrection morning! Many of the familiar stories of scripture get lost in the timeline of events and thereby loose much of the impact and meaning for us personally. As Jesus prepared Himself for death what was He thinking? What was He doing? What did He say to His followers? How did He respond to life? You see, I happen to believe that a person’s words and actions at the end of life reveal much of what they believe to be important.
The traditional Christian Church around the world celebrates several of these events. Let’s look at some of these and learn the principles our Lord lived by.
One of the events celebrated is called Holy Wednesday. It is thought to be the day when Judas Iscariot first conspired to betray our Lord. There are many theories as to the real reason Judas would betray His Lord. First, did Judas see Jesus as the true Messiah? Did he come to believe that this was, after all, a mistake? Jesus simply didn’t “operate” like the Messiah they expected. He seemed to be a little too soft on the Romans. This “love your enemies” stuff was just a little too farfetched! Come on man! Let’s do this thing and wipe out Rome and this oppression! Did Judas become convinced that the “political machine” was not employed enough by Jesus? After all, if you want to see societal change, the political machine was your weapon! Regardless of his motives, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss! Even the kiss has been debated! Was he actually sorrowful and repentant? Had he come to his senses or was he putting forth a good “religious act” and going through the motions? Not that any of us have ever done that! Well, okay, maybe we have. Okay, of course we have! Are we sincere in our affection for The Lord or are we simply “going through the motions” as we worship?
Maundy Thursday is the next celebrated day of what is known as Holy Week. “Maundy” originates from the Latin word “mandatum” which means “to command." From it we get our English word mandate. This celebration started as Christians realized the “commands” of The Lord on the Thursday evening before His arrest and torture. Being the night of Passover, Jesus and His disciples celebrated the festival as commanded in scripture as all Jews would. They prepared and gathered for the Seder Meal where each Jewish family practiced an elaborate celebration expressing God’s faithfulness delivering Israel from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land! Various pieces of matzo bread which represented God’s promises and several cups of wine which represented the many faithful promises of Jehovah! As Jesus and His disciples enjoyed this meal of God’s faithfulness, He said, “This bread is My broken body for you and this cup is My blood shed to establish a new covenant for you!” Can you imagine the utter shock to the disciples? Jesus had a habit of saying outrageous things, but this was one of the most precious celebrations of the Jewish faith and Jesus was even changing that too! Their heads must have spun when they heard this! What? Can You leave some sacred things alone? Good grief, Jesus you have now totally changed the way we do everything! Yes, yes, He did! The Master washed the servants’ feet! Jesus said you have no need for a priest to approach God for you, you can go to Him yourself! He is Abba, your heavenly daddy! Yes, He did change a few things!
Then there is Good Friday. It’s good because that is the day when the Christ or Messiah fully represented God as a co-suffering servant and laid His life down as He showed the world forgiveness! The darkest day of human history was the womb of the greatest day of human history! The latent power of the all-powerful eternal God was put on display in such a bazaar and confusing way! Death. Not open conquest. Not brandishing strength by overwhelmingly embarrassing an opponent, but by dying! Admit it, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! None! Are we ready to humbly admit that “His ways are not our ways?” Could it actually be true that “His thoughts are not our thoughts?” Yes, it’s true. Death was defeated by dying! It’s also true that separation was healed by being separated! When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He experienced for the very first time a “separation” from Father! No human words can describe that event! Perfection separated from perfection! Pure love separated from pure love! It had never been before and I’m sure all of heaven was confused and in awe! What. Was. Happening?
Holy Saturday is another day celebrated by some in the traditional church. It is a day of reflection of the day Jesus was “in the tomb.” Be honest, have you ever wondered what was going on that day? Scripture has little to say of the activities of that day. I’m sure the disciples and other followers of Jesus were in shock and devastated to say the least! This movement that they all had completely given their lives to was abruptly over. Their Rabbi dead. Movement over! Or was it? While most of the activity on earth had stopped it seems that the activity of heaven was in full swing! If we could “see into the spirit,” might we observe activity such as this?
“So, Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.”
The Epistle to the Hebrews 9:11-15