Holy Week has begun. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, those who follow the Christian traditions will celebrate the most momentous event in history. For some the significance of the season will be dulled by current events. For others, Holy Week is merely a tradition to be followed but not embraced. There are also those who see this week as a nuisance, a deception, a non-starter. But for the true believer, the significance of Holy Week gives meaning to life—and to eternity.
Palm Sunday marks the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem just a week before the Roman authorities crucified Him at the behest of the Jewish leaders of His day. He came into the city to the acclamation of the crowd. For the most part those hosannas would turn to calls for His death by the end of that week.
Jesus took every opportunity during that last week to teach, to console, to rebuke. On the night He was betrayed He spend time with those of His inner circle around the Passover supper, illustrating through its celebration how He would, within a few short hours, shed His blood as once had those lambs whose lives were sacrificed to protect the Hebrews from the angel of death passing over Egypt. Unlike those lambs, the shedding of His life blood would be unique: the last sacrifice necessary to provide forgiveness and reconciliation, the last sacrifice needed to restore the relationship between a holy God and sinful man.
That same night in Gethsemane, Jesus would ask His disciples to watch and pray with Him as His humanity struggled with the overwhelming torture of knowing that the burden of man's sin He was to carry would separate Him briefly from His Father as He received upon Himself the full brunt of God's righteous judgment. Obedient as ever, Jesus submitted to the plan worked out before the beginning of history, before that first sin ever took place.
On the day we now call Good Friday, Jesus was taken and crucified. How can that be "good"? Not good for the condemned, but good for those who have escaped condemnation because Someone else, Jesus, took the punishment they deserved—that's us, those of us who believe.
It was grace at its best, its purest, its most complete. God's grace, His favour extended to undeserving sinners at the cost of His own Son.
It's what Paul describes in Romans. Look at these few verses from Romans 5:
"For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!...if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!...For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous…where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".
That is the Gospel, the good news that what began with one man—sin and its consequences—and became the virus that contaminated and condemned us all, was defeated on a cross. The justice of God was satisfied forever by one pure, undefiled sacrifice—Jesus. By His death He opened the door of life—abundant life here and eternal life later—for those who believe.
And as a guarantee that what He did on the cross was not a hoax, there was a Resurrection Sunday when Jesus came back from the dead, demonstrating that, for believers, physical death is nothing more than a portal that leads to something much better .
We can rejoice in this, as Paul once wrote: "….we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built with human hands…" (2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1)
Holy Week is always huge for the believer. But perhaps now more than ever, now, in the midst of a world facing its mortality to an extreme not seen in at least the last hundred years, the message of the Gospel becomes even more significant. There is no need to fear for the believer who, because of Jesus, holds loosely to this "tattered tent" in anticipation of something much better. But for those without the assurance that comes with forgiveness and faith in Christ, and what He purchased for us on the cross, there is a whole lot to fear.
Now more than ever, a dying world needs to hear about a living Saviour. A dying world needs to know that there is hope and the name of that hope is Jesus.