One third of Jesus’ teaching focus on this week. One third of his works took place during this week. One third of the Gospels focus on the events of Holy Week. It has been called “the most profound week in the history of mankind.” Christians claim it is more important than the week that man landed on the moon or when the thirteen American colonies declared their independence, or when the fall of the Berlin wall signaled the collapse of Communism. Churches in the West have called it– HOLY WEEK. In the East it is known as GREAT WEEK. It is the week of salvation. It is Passion Week. It is for Christians what Passover is to the Jews– a week of remembrance, a week of reliving the events in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to watch the way Christians in America celebrate this week. Some seem to put all the emphasis on the cross and underplay the resurrection of Jesus. The themes of sin, sacrifice and death dominate. The end result is usually a rather depressing and pessimistic Christianity. There is no victory. Other Christians seem to put all the emphasis on the resurrection and underplay the cross of Jesus. They do not even bother with Holy Week or Good Friday. They rush right to the resurrection and celebrate it out of context– rather like reading the last chapter of a book and ignoring all that comes before. There is little teaching on atonement and the blood of Jesus shed for our sin. The end result is usually a triumphalistic Christianity that is prematurely glib.
In contrast to both of these approaches we have Biblical Christianity where God sent his son to fulfill the law, die on a cross for sinners, and rise from the dead on the third day to triumph over the powers of evil, sin and death. Biblical Christianity is realistic about sin and judgment, pessimistic about life outside of Christ, and optimistic about eternal life in Jesus. In the Bible, the cross and the resurrection go together. What God has joined together let no one separate!
One reason to take time for Holy Week is because, just like Scripture, it holds Jesus’ death and resurrection closely together. Not only that, it holds his triumphal entry, his time with his beloved friends, the last supper, the upper room discourse, Gethsemane, the cross and the resurrection together. Even more so, it holds us together.
Observing Holy Week helps us enter into the emotions of the first disciples. We feel the story. We recommend that our congregation slow down during this week to “walk through the week with Jesus.” Between Palm Sunday’s first service and Easter Sunday’s last service, we have a total of 13 services at Cherry Creek, including a mid day service each day of the week. We also have a Maundy Thursday family service, and a Good Friday service. It is a busy week for pastors, but it can be a feast for the soul.
I hope that you will set aside this week as a special time to grow spiritually as a Christian and that ministries of our churches will be led to clear the schedule in order to focus more intently on the cross and resurrection.
Let me suggest some ways to make the week more meaningful.
1. Each day, read through the Biblical Account of Holy Week. Do this alone in your personal devotions or with your family. Here’s a schedule:
Saturday–The Mission of Jesus, Mark 10.35-45
Sunday–The Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem, Mark 11.1-11
Monday–Jesus Clears the Temple, Mark 11.12-19
Tuesday–Day of Controversy and Teaching, Mark 11.20-12-44
Wednesday–Day of Quiet, Mark 13.1-37
Thursday–Passover and Last Supper, Mark 14.1-72
Friday–Crucifixion, Mark 15.1-47
Saturday–In the Tomb, Matthew 27.62-66
Sunday–Resurrection, Mark 16.1-20
Monday–Aftermath, Acts 2.22-36
2. Attend Holy Week services at church where the gospel is proclaimed
3. Do some devotional reading on the cross, the resurrection, the person of Christ, or basic doctrines of the Christian Faith.
D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
Michael Green, Who is this Jesus?
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ
Erwin Lutzer, Christ Among Other gods
John Stott, The Cross of Christ
John Murray, Redemption Applied and Accomplished
A.W. Pink, Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross
J.I. Packer and Others, In My Place Condemned He Stood
4. View a film about the ministry of Jesus or the Christian Faith such as Jesus of Nazareth, The Passion of the Christ, The Jesus Film,
or Christian History Institute’s The Apostles’ Creed
5. Listen carefully to one of the great musical masterpieces that celebrate the triumph of Christ.
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion or Handel’s Messiah
Don’t miss the opportunity to grow spiritually during the next eight days. Take some time to slow down and enter into the profound sorrows and joys of the week that changed the world.