Yesterday was Palm Sunday which symbolized Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey colt during the last week of his life. That means this week is full of significance for Christians. We will experience Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally Easter Sunday. Quite an eventful and emotional week. I thought it would be nice to talk about these last few days of Jesus’ life as we prepare ourselves for the joy and glory of Easter.
The Bible gives four accounts of these events in the Gospels. They each start with Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-38, John 12:12-18).[Sunday] On Palm Sunday people in Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into the city waving palm tree branches and shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus went and visited the temple.
We can welcome Jesus into every area of our lives – our minds, hearts, actions, home, work, and community. Many of us feel wary about what Jesus would do if given free reign in our lives but we should not fear. We should have joy and hope that he will produce wonderful fruits because he loves us.
[Monday-Wednesday] The Bible tells us that Jesus went to the temple each day to be with people and teach them, often through parables. Many of the religious leaders tried to challenge Jesus with questions to discredit him and his authority. They recruited other people to ask Jesus questions to try to trap him in his words. Judas agrees to betray Jesus to the chief priests (Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:3-6).
We can seek wisdom and guidance through God’s word. We can read the parables Jesus taught to the people during the last days of his life and be excited that we are now blessed to have the Holy Spirit in us to teach us how to live.[Thursday] This is the day when the Jewish people celebrated Passover (the commemoration of the liberation of the Israelites from the Egyptians through Moses’ leadership). Jesus had some of his disciples make preparations for it. They ate a final meal together and Jesus instructed his disciples to eat the bread and wine and remember his sacrifice that was about to occur (Mathew 26:20-30, Mark 14:17-26, Luke 22:14-30, John 13:21-30). Judas leaves to betray Jesus. After the meal, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray about what was to happen. Then Judas came and Jesus was arrested and taken to high priest by the religious leaders to state their case against him.
Christians call this day Maundy Thursday. Maundy is short for the Latin word “mandatum” which means “command.” On this day Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
We are told to love everyone, even those who might betray us as Judas did Jesus. Jesus’ capacity to love and forgive all those who hurt or wronged him shows us that no one is too far gone to be unreachable by Christ’s love.[Friday] After being questioned by the high priest in the middle of the night (pretty sketchy and unjust), Jesus was taken to Pilate, the Roman governor. Jewish law did not permit them to execute Jesus so they wanted Pilate to do it for them. Pilate did not find any offense in Jesus but succumbed to the pressure of the Jewish people and permitted Jesus to be crucified. Jesus was mocked, beaten, and forced to carry the cross he would die on up to Golgotha where he was hung until he died (Matthew 27:32-56, Mark 15:21-41, Luke 23:26-49, John 19:18-37). Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and laid it in his tomb as it was almost the Sabbath.
Christians call this day Good Friday. There does not seem to be anything good about the events of this day unless you know that this is the completion of God’s plan of salvation for mankind that will reunite us with himself once again. We can rejoice and be grateful that Christ surrendered to God’s will and walked through pain, even separation from God, for our sake.[Saturday] This was the Jewish Sabbath so people were at homes resting and spending time with God. I’m sure Jesus’ disciples and followers were grieving his death, unsure how his kingdom would come now that he was gone. Things might have seemed hopeless and the people might have questioned whether Jesus was who he claimed to be.
This same day that was supposed to be devoted to God, the chief priests and Pharisees asked Pilate to place a guard at Jesus’ tomb to make sure no one stole the body to substantiate Jesus’ claim that he would rise again from the dead (Matthew 27:62-66).[Sunday] Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James went early to the tomb with spices to prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. When they arrived, the stone had been rolled away from the tomb and it was empty. An angel appeared to the women who asked him what he had done with Jesus’ body. The angel reported that Jesus was alive again. The women told all of this to the disciples. Jesus appeared to the women as well as two travelers on the way to Emmaus. (Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-13, Luke 24:1-42, John 20:1-23) Some accounts also report him appearing to the disciples on this day.
Hope was restored. Jesus did indeed rise from the dead like he said he would. He fulfilled his purpose and all mankind is now reconciled with God when they believe and confess that Jesus is Messiah and Lord.
This week let us consider what we can learn from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.