We will soon be wrapping up the season of Lent. This week is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.
Soon, we’ll celebrate Easter — the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which changed everything, including the calendar.
Someone said recently that expected the Lord to come back on Easter 2020 because everyone was at home. I’ve never subscribed to the theory we can predict any of that; somewhere, it’s been said we won’t know the day nor the hour, so I suspect it’s foolish of us to even try and play a guessing game. And here we are, three years after the fact.
In John chapter 16, Jesus says, “In all truth I tell you, you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.”
The miracle of Easter is repeated every year. For a moment, subtract the pretty dresses and hats, and forget about the Easter Bunny hopping around. One need look no further than scripture for a clearer understanding of the greatest miracle in human history.
The fact that it was all foretold made this week all the more powerful as events unfolded 2,000 years ago.
I am no theologian or scholar, but the story of Holy Week should give us all pause as we reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while Pontius Pilate entered with troops. The crowd shouted Hosanna at this unlikely king during the holiest of times, Passover.
Jesus preached in the temple for the next three days and called out the moneychangers, throwing them out as he said they had “turned it into a den of thieves.”
It was during this time Jesus spoke in parables and visited the Mount of Olives. He said one would betray him (Judas did for silver) and one would deny him three times (Peter did then realized it too late).
Pilate, in a power grab worthy of a reality show competition, allowed his audience to vote on whose life would be spared. Known as a guilty criminal, Barabbas was freed and Jesus was condemned. Pilate literally washed his hands of the issue.
Thursday, Jesus celebrated Passover with the disciples. Today, Christians call it Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, and there are foot washing rituals. Overall, we recall the words Jesus spoke as he offered His body and blood: “Do this in memory of me.”
Condemned to death, Jesus spent Good Friday being ridiculed, spat upon, humiliated, beaten and tortured in violent and gruesome ways. A crown of thorns was weaved for him, and he was whipped and scourged. He took his place with two other criminals at Calvary after having to carry his own cross through town and was nailed to the cross. Above his head was the inscription I N R I, meaning “Hail, King of the Jews.”
This religious leader who had led and lived so humbly was now suffering a most brutal death surrounded by people who, through an outrageous scene of mob mentality, hated Him.
There are numerous quotes attributed to Jesus as he hung on the cross, but out of all of them the one that should speak directly to us as we realize His true gift as our Savior, is what he said to the dying thief.
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Indeed – for all of us, God loved the world so much he sacrificed His only son. That love is what we should express, not that judgmental version of Christianity we sometimes see and hear.
That version of Christianity is what our culture criticizes and ridicules — and rightly so because it is a corrupted version.
The Jesus of the scriptures walked among the poor and at every stop preached forgiveness and mercy to all. He was the ultimate example of turning the other cheek. While He called out sinners, He also showed everyone is welcome to believe, no matter what they look like or where they live.
Even in cultures around the world that either don’t know about Christianity or choose another religion, their calendar is still moving in the time of anno domini — in the Year of Our Lord. It is an amazing fact that the birth of Jesus is memorialized to this day by our very calendar. People who do not even know Him are still counting their days with a Gregorian calendar dedicated to Him.
Easter marks the end of Lent, the 40 days of fasting and abstinence that began with Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and Ash Wednesday. Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the regular calendar. It always occurs during the spring in March or April.
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism as well as by its position in the calendar. Passover and Easter are interchangeable terms in many European languages, so the similarities are even greater for the early Christians who translated the Bible.
As the Passover lamb, Jesus was crucified at roughly the same time as the Passover lambs were being slain in the temple. To this day, 3 p.m. Good Friday is traditionally a time that is observed.
Every Friday during Lent, many Christians observe the Stations of the Cross. The Stations of the Cross are fourteen points on the via dolorosa in Jerusalem, from the Lions' Gate to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of the most powerful Lenten traditions, even more so than fasting and abstinence.
Michael Bird is a music teacher at Tallassee City Schools.