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Holy Week – An Explanation

As we come from the preparatory season of Lent into the celebratory season of Easter, we go through Holy Week. Holy Week commemorates the final days of Jesus’ life and his final journey into Jerusalem. It begins with Palm Sunday, a day of celebration with undertones of the crisis and violence to come. According to the Bible, as Jesus entered Jerusalem a crowd gathered laying their cloaks on the road and waving palm branches. On the other side of Jerusalem, the Roman governor Pilate would be entering to his own parade. Palm Sunday sets the scene – Jesus took on the Roman authorities, claiming to have more power than even Caesar himself.

On Maundy Thursday we celebrate the Passover with Jesus, and the institution of the sacrament of Holy Communion (also known as The Last Supper or the Eucharist.) Christians do not celebrate the Passover described in the book of Exodus, but Maundy Thursday would not exist without it. Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room of house to celebrate this Jewish holiday.

When we celebrate the Last Supper, we commune with Christ. We also remember how Jesus took bread and broke it, saying, “This is my body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” The bread broke would have been unleavened bread, in remembrance of Israel leaving Egypt so quickly they could not add leavening.

Jesus took a cup of wine and pass it to the people assembled, saying, “This is the new covenant, shed in my blood for the forgiveness of sins. Take, drink, and do this in remembrance of me.” The cup passed would have been the cup of Elijah, the most major prophet of Israel’s history. Jesus intentionally claims to be both the incarnation of Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets. Jesus fulfills God’s plan first made known to Abraham all the way back in Genesis.

On Good Friday that plan goes into another act, this one a political and religious drama which culminates on the cross. Jesus is taken before both the religious authorities and the Roman occupational authorities. He is mocked, beaten, and forced to carry his own cross up Golgotha. There he was crucified. To the Roman government, crucifixion was meant to show the world how powerful the empire was. To Christians, the crucifixion reminds us of our sin and of the willingness of God to forgive. The cross reminds us also that death is not final, and that Good Friday is merely a way station on the road to the final act.

This final act is Easter Sunday. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead and this day we celebrate the resurrecting power of God that made Jesus come alive again. Easter celebrates that death is not final – that the light of God always pierces the darkness of sin and death. Easter is a celebration of hope: hope in God’s Son, hope in the resurrection, hope for the world in which we live.

Join in celebrating Holy Week this year from April 17 through the 24. Palm Sunday worship begins at 10 am on April 17. Maundy Thursday worship begins at 7 pm on April 21 and includes a cantata sung by our wonderful choir. Easter Sunday brings two opportunities to worship, including a sunrise service at 7 am held at Westhunt Baptist Church and our regular 10 am worship. Come and worship the Risen Lord this Easter season!


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