It’s just about Holy Week, and I wonder if you have a plan?
Holy week, you say, where’s that in the Bible? Glad you asked. That exact phrase is not in the Bible. But then, neither is the word Trinity. But just as a description of the triune God is all over the New Testament, I’d like you to consider the prominence of this very significant week in Scripture.
Do you realize that one third of Jesus’ teaching in the four gospels focus on this week. And one third of his works took place during this week. One third!
That Biblical fact prompted one New Testament scholar to describe the gospels as “passion narratives with long introductions.”
This special week has been called “the most profound week in the history of mankind.” It’s far more significant than the week we landed a man on the moon, when the American colonies declared their independence, when World War II ended, or the Berlin wall fell signaling the collapse of Communism.
Churches in the West have called it– HOLY WEEK. In the East it’s known as GREAT WEEK.
It is the week of salvation. It is Passion Week. It is to Christians what Passover is to the Jews– a week of remembrance, a week of deliverance, a week of reliving and retelling the events in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I find it interesting to watch the way Christians in America celebrate this week.
Some Christians seem to put all the emphasis on the suffering of the cross and say little about the resurrection of Jesus. The themes of sin, agony and death dominate. The end result can be 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. It does not take sin, righteousness, God’s judgment or Christ’s work seriously.
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, death and hell.
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 I take time for Holy Week is because, it too, just like Scripture, hold Jesus’ death and resurrection closely together. Slowing down for Holy Week helps me track through the events and emotions of the week with my Lord.
But I’m wondering if you will do anything different during this next week to grow in your understanding of the work of Christ. Let me suggest some small steps to make the week more meaningful.
- You might read through a gospel account of Holy Week following Jesus from the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday right to the empty tomb. Try this alone, or with your family. There are plenty of devotional guides with recommended readings.
- To grow in your understanding of this week you might read a good book on the cross and resurrection. Consider The Final Days of Jesus by Kostenberger and Taylor (Crossway), or John Stott’s The Cross of Christ (Inter Varsity), or D.A. Carson’s The Cross and Christian Ministry (Baker)
- Or you might look at The Christ of the Empty Tomb, by Boice, or The Case for the Resurrection, or The Case for Easter by Lee Strobel.
- Another way to make the week more meaningful is to watch a film on the life and death of Christ during the week—The Jesus Film, The Son of God, or The Passion of the Christ, or Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth.
- Or you might listen carefully to one of the great sacred musical masterpieces that celebrate the triumph of Christ—Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, or Handle’s Messiah.
Most of all, make sure you attend Holy Week services at a church which actually believes this gospel message. Worship on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday.
I hope that you will set aside time this coming week to grow in your faith and enter into the profound sorrows and joys of this week with your heads and our hearts engaged.
 That phrase originates from German theologian Martin Kahler in his comment about Mark’s Gospel.