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Preparing for Easter: What You Need to Know About Holy Week- Part 1

Holy Week is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Also called Passion Week, which indicates the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross. The week marks the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry, beginning with His triumphal entrance to Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-38; John 12: 12-15).

Palm Sunday

The day began with Jesus sending two of His disciples into the village of Bethphage (located on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem) to procure a donkey. Jesus would then ride into Jerusalem mounted on the donkey, which was a fulfillment of the prophesy, as the King entered the Holy city in this way: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zech 9:9). Indeed, as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others laid palm branches along the route and began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David” Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”  (Matt 21:8-9). The translation of the word, “Hosanna” means “save now.” This, along with the reference to the “He who comes in the Name of the Lord” comes right out of Psalm 118:25-26, which makes it clear that the crowd was acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah.

But oh how things can change in a matter of a few days…even hours! puts it this way, “Even as the coatless multitudes waved the palm branches and shouted for joy, they missed the true reason for Jesus’ presence. They could neither see nor understand the cross. That’s why “as [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies . . . will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41–47). It is a tragic thing to see the Savior but not recognize Him for who He is. The crowds who were crying out “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were crying out “Crucify Him!” later that week (Matthew 27:22–23).”

After His triumphal entry, Jesus did not go to a special luncheon in His honor, as was common for visiting dignitaries of the day; He went to the temple, where he proceeded to cleanse it from the money changers and flea market circus it had become (Matt 21:1213). He then went about His business of healing and proclaiming and teaching (primarily through His use of parables). He also spoke openly about the coming judgment and His Second Coming. This led to the religious leaders’ plotting to kill Jesus. Incidentally, it is no accident that this was also Passover week, with the commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from the bondage of Egypt when the Lord spoke to Moses, instructing him to have his people take the blood of a lamb without spot, and brush its blood on their doorposts (Exodus 12). This is an echo of Jesus coming to free people from the bondage of their sin by the shedding of His blood, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

So with that in mind, Jesus called His own disciples to eat the Passover meal with Him.

Holy Thursday | The Last Supper

The occasion is called “Holy Thursday” or “Maundy Thursday,” named from the Latin— “Mandatum,” which means “commandment” or “mandate.” It was used in context with Jesus’ new commandment that He gave to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). In fact, that new commandment was one of several significant things that occurred at supper that Thursday evening. It was also a time when Jesus demonstrated His love and service to his disciples by washing their feet— something unheard of by a person they considered their Lord and Master (John 13: 14-17). It was against this backdrop that Christ presented Himself at supper the sufficient sacrifice, as He ushered in the new covenant, forged by His shed blood, for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:29). This was done on the eve of His arrest, where He would be taken to first be questioned, then scourged and finally crucified the very next day.

Next week, Part 2 will chronicle Good Friday and Easter Sunday- events that changed the world.

-Pastor Joe Garofalo

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