The Best Week of the Year
It is the greatest week of the year. I know it might not seem like it since we can’t seem to shake winter even though the calendar has turned to spring, but trust me, it is the greatest week of the year.
What makes it so great? Well, in the church we call it “Holy Week” and it is the time that Christians around the world remember the culmination of God’s work to restore the relationship that had been broken between him and humanity.
It is a week that runs like a rollercoaster. It starts on a high this past Sunday, Palm Sunday, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem with shouts of acclimation. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! People are excited to see him and things seem to be looking good.
By Thursday, however, the mood has changed. Now it is more somber and subdued. Jesus gathers together with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. During this meal Jesus takes on the responsibilities of the lowliest servant and goes around the table washing his disciples’ feet. It would have been unheard of for such a prominent teacher doing such a dirty task and yet that’s exactly what Jesus does.
While he is washing their feet he gives them a new command. He says, “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” Jesus is saying that one of the ways that you should be able to recognize Christians is by the love that they have for other people. It is a love that comes from God and is reflected through the lives of his followers.
During that meal Jesus also gives the disciples and all who would follow after him a gift. He gives them his body and his blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins and strengthening of their faith. Today we know this as the Lord’s Supper, Communion, or Eucharist. This awesome gift is meant to sustain his followers and assure them of their forgiveness until he returns.
After the meal, Jesus and his disciples go out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The disciples fall asleep while Jesus is praying and after he is done Judas, a disciple who didn’t come with them, shows up with soldiers to arrest Jesus.
Jesus is taken and put though a sham of a trial with witnesses who contradicted each other. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate can’t find any reason to charge him, let alone kill him and yet the crowds keep getting angrier and angrier and he’s worried he’ll have a full blown riot on his hands so he agrees to kill Jesus by crucifying him.
Jesus is beaten, a crown of thorns is placed on his head and he’s given a cross to carry out to the hill where they’ll nail him to it. Once they arrive he’s nailed to the cross and lifted up in between two other criminals who are also being executed that day.
Jesus shows his great love and mercy twice more while he is hanging on the cross. At one point he cries out, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”. Even in the midst of such terrible torture – for a crime he didn’t commit nonetheless – Jesus is still loving and caring for the people around him. That’s the kind of love he wanted his disciples to show. He also forgave the sins of one of the criminals who was hanging there with him who repented and promised him that he would be with him in paradise.
After hanging on the cross, losing blood and finding it harder and harder to breathe, Jesus finally dies. He is taken down off the cross by some of his followers and put into a tomb. A giant rock is rolled in front of the door to the tomb and guards were stationed outside of it so that no one would steal the body.
This seemed to be the end of the story. The disciples were sad, the rulers felt like they had succeeded and people didn’t know quite what to think.
Now you might be wondering how I could possibly claim that this is the greatest week of the year. If the story truly ended here it wouldn’t be so great, unless, of course, you wanted Jesus dead. Then is suppose it would be.
No, what makes this week great is that the story doesn’t end here. Jesus most certainly died on the cross in your place. To take the death you deserved because of your sin and to give you eternal life. But if he stayed dead he wouldn’t be any different than anyone who had come before him or after him. We’re familiar with how death works. People who die stay dead.
Spoiler alert: Jesus doesn’t stay dead. In just a few days on Easter Sunday morning Jesus walked right out of the tomb – ALIVE! He rose from the dead and proved that he had defeated sin, death, and the devil. We know that for those who trust in him we have the confidence that because Jesus lives, we will live too.
Sure, people still die. However, now it is only temporary. Now through faith in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection are your death and resurrection. You have the assurance that you will live forever with him. That’s what makes this the greatest week of the year!