EPCALM Spiritual Ministry Director Mitch Duran shares his Holy Week Reflection about the Meaning of Holy Week during the regular EPCALM Prayer Cell last March 27, 2013. Please see the whole reflection delivered during that session:
THE MEANING OF HOLY WEEK
About 2,000 years ago, an event occurred in the Middle East that changed the world permanently. In fact, we date our calendars by this event. Every time you write a date, you are using the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the focal point—A.D. and B.C. History was split by this one event.
What’s so important about what we now call Holy Week? What’s the big deal about it? Why are the events of that first Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday often on the cover of major national newspapers and magazines? Why is Jesus still on the cover 2,000 years later?
Because it was the week that proved Jesus was who He claimed to be. He was God and He came to earth to save us.
The events that happened on that Holy Week occurred in a dramatic succession of events. There was his triumphant entry on Palm Sunday. Then there was the Last Supper with his disciples on Thursday, the trial of Jesus late that night; then there was the death of Jesus on Friday; and finally the resurrection of Jesus on the next Sunday.
I want to briefly discuss three events of that week—Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection, and the implications for us here this evening.
Jesus actually went through six trials. They arrested Him at night, and secretly because He was so popular they didn’t want an uprising in the city of Jerusalem. He went through three religious trials; and then He went through three civil trials.
First He went to Annas, then a trial before Caiaphas the high priest. Then a trial before the Sanhedrin, the religious Supreme Court. Then He went before Pilate, the Governor of Jerusalem. Then Herod, the Governor of Galilee. Then He was back to Pilate again. He went through six different trials—all in one night.
When they finished those six trials, what did they have to accuse Him of? Nothing. He had done nothing wrong. They had no crime against Him, no accusation that would stick. They brought in people to make up phony charges but they weren’t admissible. Finally, they got Him convicted on one count—He claimed to be the Son of God. That’s why they put Jesus on the cross.
Matthew 26 says: “The priests were looking for false evidence against Jesus so they could put Him to death but they didn’t find anything. Then they said, ‘Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ `Yes, it is as you say,’ said Jesus. Then they spit in His face and struck Him with their fists and others slapped Him.”
Notice that Jesus never claimed to be a good man. He never claimed to be a moral leader. He never claimed to be a great teacher. He said, “I’m God. I’m the only way to heaven. No one comes to the Father but through Me.”
If you ever meet anybody who claims to be God, you only have three options. One, believe he’s an idiot. The guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s deluded. He just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and you pity him.
Two, you could say, “I believe he’s a deceiver. He’s trying to con me into believing he’s something he’s not and he probably wants my money.”
And three, you may say, “I believe you’re telling the truth. In that case, I need to fall down and worship you, obey you, and follow you.”
Everybody here this evening has already made some kind of decision about Jesus Christ. You either believe He’s a liar; or you believe He’s a lunatic; or you believe He is the Lord.
Jesus claimed to be the savior of the world in John 12:47: “I didn’t come to judge the world. I came to save it.” That’s why He allowed Himself to be put on trial so there would be no doubt about who He was.
Obviously, being God, He could have stopped the trial at any moment. But He allowed it to happen, and He even knew that He would be proven guilty because He was the Son of God, and put on the cross. But it was all part of the plan. It cost Jesus Christ His life. But He was willing to do it, because after the trials were all over, He was condemned to be crucified.
Thus, the trial of Jesus shows His purpose.
Now, the crucifixion is probably the most brutal and torturous death penalty ever devised by man. But even before Jesus went to the cross, he experienced incredible pain and bruises. After six trials and staying up all night and lack of sleep, Jesus was brought to the Roman soldiers who just wanted to make fun of Him.
They put a robe on Him and they crowned Him with thorns, which pierced and stuck into His head. They put a blindfold on Him; and began to beat and slap Him. They hit Him in the face—just out of sheer torture.
The Bible says He was mocked and scorned. He was scourged. Scourging was far worse than whipping. They would bend a man over a post so that he couldn’t kneel down, but he couldn’t stand up either. And you know how that hurts your back when you’re in that half-way position.
They would tie your hands, strip you down to the waist, then two men, called lectors, would hold these whips that had a cat-of-nine-tails in it, nine long strands of leather. Tied to each of these strands of leather were sharp bones that would cut the skin, and bits of lead that bruised the skin. They would whip, and when they did, it would not only cut the back open, but it would bruise it at the same time.
Jesus’ back was one bloody pulp even before He went to the cross. When you figure 39 times 9, that’s how many lacerations he had on His back even before He went to the cross.
Then they gave Him the heavy cross that He was to carry up the hill to Calvary. As He carried the cross, He stumbled and fell due to loss of blood and fatigue. The soldiers just grabbed anybody out of the crowd to help Him carry the cross.
When He got to the top of Calvary, they stretched Him out on the cross and nailed Him. You’ve seen many things where it looks like the nails were through the palms, but historically they would nail in the wrist, between the two bones, and it would go through, and be excruciatingly painful.
The death on the cross was a death of suffocation. If you hung this way for any period, what happens is that the muscles around your chest cavity, the pectorals major, begin to paralyze. And when all the weight of your body is held this way, eventually you’re able to breathe in, but you can’t breathe out. So the death on the cross would have been a simple death of suffocation, except that the Romans didn’t want to make it that easy.
What they would do is take a person’s knees and bend them a little bit and nail the feet to the cross. So a man would be hanging there in absolute agony until the pain in his chest was about to explode, then he would lift himself up on his feet that were nailed to the cross—so he could breathe. He would hold that position until He could no longer stand the pain in his feet, and He would let himself back down again, until the pain in his lungs became unbearable.
The death on the cross was that way—up and down, up and down. It was an incredibly torturous event. That’s why the Bible tells us (and history, too) that the Romans would eventually break the legs of the person on the cross. And when they couldn’t stand up anymore, they would eventually suffocate.
That’s the kind of punishment that Jesus went through on the cross. Why? Why did Jesus have to die? They took a spear and stuck it in His side, just to make sure He had died, and it says water and blood came out of the chest cavity.
There are many books that have been written on this and doctors say that the only way you get water and blood mixing in the chest cavity is if the heart rips. You can call it what you want, but Jesus died of a broken heart. It exploded. He was saying, “I love you so much it hurts!”
Why did Jesus have to die? He did so because He paid for our sins. There’s a law of the universe that says, you reap what you sow. If you break man’s laws, you pay man’s penalties. But if you break God’s laws, you pay God’s penalties.
The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” The Good News is it’s already been paid for. Jesus said, “You deserve punishment.” We all deserve this punishment. However, Jesus said, “I love you so much. I created you. I will come to earth, and take the punishment for you.”
Thus, the death of Jesus shows His passion.
If you don’t think God loves you, take a long look at the cross. You’re blind if you don’t think God loves you. There will never be anyone in history who loves you more than God does.
“God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
You look at creation and see God’s hand, but you look at the cross and you see God’s heart, His passion. This is why Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified.
After Jesus died, they took His body down and put Him in the tomb. In the Middle East, they don’t bury people in caskets under the ground. They would dig caves in the side of mountains, into the limestone. Then then would dig a trench right in front of the cave, and put a giant millstone in front of it to wedge it shut. Then when someone else in the family would die, they would take it apart, roll the stone back, and put another person’s body into the same tomb.
It’s interesting that after Jesus had died, the religious leaders were frightened. They went back to Pilate and said, “Jesus claimed that He was going to raise Himself from the dead in three days. We know that’s not going to happen. But we would like for you to put an official Roman seal over that stone so it can’t be moved, and we want you to post guards around it.”
Jesus is the only person who was kept from coming out of His tomb, and they planted guards at His grave for this purpose.
Recently, the top historians around the world gathered together and made a list of what they considered to be the 100 most significant events in the history of the world. Included in this list were: the discovery of America, the invention of the airplane, the invention of the printing press, among others.
Number four on the list of most important events was the life of Jesus Christ. When I saw that, I was not offended that they hadn’t put it as number one. They had not forgotten the most important part anyway. They had put—the Life of Jesus Christ.
If only Jesus had come and lived, and then died like everybody else, that’s probably about the best you could say about Him—Number Four.
But what makes Jesus different is He not only died a martyr’s death on the cross, but He came back to life. And nobody else has ever done that, and that’s what makes this the most significant event in history.
Even Newsweek says, “The risen Christ is the center of the Christian faith. The mystery without which there would be no church, no hope of eternal life, no living Christ to encounter today. No other historical figure has ever made the claim that He was raised from the dead. It was this appearance of the resurrected Christ that lit the flame of the Christian faith. It wasn’t the morality of the Sermon on the Mount, which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman paganism, but it was the belief that Jesus was alive. He had been raised from the dead.”
This Holy Week then is not some memorial to a nice, good, religious teacher who lived 2,000 years ago. It’s a celebration of the fact that He is alive even to this day.
Romans 1:4 says: “By being raised from the dead, He proved He was the mighty Son of God, with the nature of God Himself.” Historical records have documented that Jesus showed Himself many times. He showed Himself one time to 500 people.
You can just imagine the joy that the disciples felt when they realized that the man that had been crucified three days earlier, was who He said He was.
Thus, the resurrection of Jesus shows His Power.
In one sense, Jesus Christ is still on trial. He’s on trial in every heart and mind of every person who has not yet acknowledged Him for who He is. Now, it’s time to decide. What’s your verdict?
You see, Holy Week can boil down to two issues: One—Is Jesus who He says He is? And Two, if He is who He says He is, when are you going to start following what He says?
Today, you are the judge of Jesus Christ. Just like Pilate said, “What shall I do then with Jesus who is called the Christ?” That’s the most important question of life. What are you going to do with Jesus who is called the Christ?
One day, Jesus Christ will judge us, and God is going to say, “What did you do with My Son, Jesus, who I sent to earth to die for you, and He said I love you this much.” Would you say, “I don’t care; it does not matter; I’m going to live my own life; I’m going to try to work my way to Heaven, instead of trusting in Christ?”
Jesus will either be your Savior, or He will be your Judge. What you do with Him will determine where you spend your eternity.
I’m going to pray now, and if you would say, “Yes, I accept who Jesus is, and what He has done for me,” then I invite you to say this prayer in your heart. God will hear you:
● “Dear God, I believe that You sent Your son, Jesus, to die for my sins so I can be forgiven. I’m sorry for my sins.
● I want to live the rest of my life the way You want me to. Please put Your Spirit in my life to direct me. Amen.”
And if you are already a believer, pray with me again:
● “Dear God, I believe in Jesus. I want to commit today to share my faith with others, so they can hear and know Jesus who lived, died and rose from the dead, so that we might have life, and have it abundantly.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.