Christians around the world are preparing to
commemorate the crucifixion, death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ during the Holy Week.
Holy Week is the period just before Easter Sunday and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The week follows the 40 days of lent observed to meditate on the Word of God and practise self-control. The 40 days of self-restraint and meditation culminates in the Holy Week.
The 40 days of lent is observed to recall Jesus’ time in the wilderness where he was tempted thrice by Satan and the subjugation of the evil one and temptations through the Scriptures. Holy Week also marks the period commemorating the betrayal and death of Christ on the Cross.
Even though both instances are commemorated back to back, in the Bible they are recorded as instances which occurred during different timelines. Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan before He began His ministry, whereas He was betrayed and crucified three years after He began His public life among the people.
Having completed 40 days of lent, Christians will now move towards the Holy Week where they would meditate on the Cross leading up to Easter Sunday, the day on which Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The week begins with Palm Sunday which
commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus enters Jerusalem seated on a donkey. The people give Him a welcome fit for a king which irked the Pharisees. They laid down their garments along the pathway and waved palm leaves, shouting ‘hosanna’.
It was a significant occasion with Jesus hailed as a king seated on the most humble off all animals, the donkey. His entry is followed by the ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ where He chases away shady characters who were indulging in business within the church premises as He declared “you have made my Father’s (God’s) house a den of thieves.”
Maundy Thursday is another important day in the Christian calendar. It is the day on which Jesus had His last supper with His 12 disciples before being betrayed by one of them, Judas Iscariot.
On that particular day, Jesus instructed His disciples to arrange a room for the supper. It was on this day that Christ laid out his model for the Holy Communion which is been observed in almost all mainstream churches to this day.
After the last supper, Jesus withdraws to a lonely place in the Garden of Gethsemane the spot where He was betrayed by Judas.
Another significant event that had occurred on the day
was the washing of the disciples’ feet, a ritual that to this day has been unmatched and unparalleled in the service of mankind as Jesus to emphasize the importance of discipleship and selfless service, washed the feet of the 12 disciples that included Judas.
Peter was one of the 12 disciples who refused to be washed but Jesus cautioned Peter that he will have no part to play if his feet were not washed in accordance with the ritual. Peter then agrees to be washed.
The feet-washing event is highlighted during the religious observances on Maundy Thursday and some churches cite the historic event during the ordination of priests to highlight the importance of serving the people.
Good Friday marks the day on which Jesus was crucified as churches worldwide commemorate His death to save mankind from sin. The whole purpose of Christ’s birth was to show the way to people who believed in Him that there is salvation in suffering and death no longer the end but the start of eternal life through the Son of God. On Good Friday the main focus is on the seven recorded utterances by Christ on the Cross which are reflected through relevant The Bible passages and accompanied by short sermons that describe the context in which the words were spoken.
Simon of Cyrene
Simon from Cyrene was a man who helped Jesus to carry the Cross towards Calvary. In the modern context, the role of Simon has gained prominence due to his helping nature. We need more Simons today where people are mere spectators when others struggle.
During Jesus’ time, Saturday was the day of the Sabbath for the Jews. The Bible states that the body of Jesus was hurriedly buried in a tomb so that the burial rituals could be performed after Sabbath. While some churches conduct services within the church premises, others conduct services at graveyards where they pray for those who have departed.
This is the day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ who conquered death and darkness. Christianity would not be what it is today, a living
manifestation of the Truth followed by more than two billion adherents, if not for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. His resurrection symbolizes victory over evil and the defeat of sin. The risen Christ first revealed Himself to a woman named Mary Magdalene who had visited the tomb early in the morning. He then walked the earth for another 40 days after His resurrection, appearing to His disciples and giving them instructions and responsibilities that they had to fulfil after His ascension to heaven. Jesus Christ did not own an inch of land, command a million-strong army or had at his disposal a fleet of ships or aircraft, but to this day he remains the most famously influential person in the world able to strike a note even with non-believers and his violent crucifixion, death and resurrection has become the most written and talked about event in the history of mankind.
Pic by Ravindra Dharmathilake