The 8-Day Easter Celebration:
What are those eight Christian calendar days the church celebrates all leading up to Easter Sunday? It's when we look back and remember the cross, the grave, and how Jesus was its defeater. But Holy Week is also the story of how God's people finally got their final king, the week when the world crowned its final leader. It's the last week of Jesus' life on Earth, and it could not be more scandalous nor could it be sweeter. It's the center of the story God has been telling forever, the mountaintop in history on which the whole world teeters.
1. "Holy-Week Begins! Jesus Rides Out to Greet Israel."
Holy-Week starts on a Sunday when Israel gathered in her capital in celebration as Jesus rode out to meet her. But he entered like a new triumphant king to take control of Israel and her temple. He rode on a donkey, the animal associated with Israel's kings and their arrivals. Jesus was a rival King arriving to bring his kingdom to a people desperately in need of a new leader who would be final. Which is why on Palm Sunday, we remember that Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was as a king, which is why it is triumphal.
2. Holy Monday:
We remember in the New Testament Jesus' first public act as king. How he entered the temple, his house, and throne room, the place where God and man could together assemble through sacrifices and offerings. This is where humanity met their God.
But when Jesus saw it, he saw it as a fraud, he saw it as dirty. So, the king went to battle against their idolatry, putting a halt to their sacrifices and their priests in order to show that he himself would be their offering. He would lay down his life. That is how he would be their triumphant king. Which is why on Holy Monday, we remember that through the sacrifice of Jesus, the temple would be cleaned.
3. On the Third Day Tuesday:
We remember when Jesus cursed a fig tree. The tree was a symbol of the temple, a picture of what Israel should be, a deeply rooted plant that grows both life-giving fruit and leaf. He saw only death, he saw no fruit to eat. So, he cursed the tree to rot, and he did so as a symbol of how he would ride out against the fruitless building on the mountain around which they were assembled.
He was saying the destruction that came on the fig tree would also come upon the temple. The new king, Jesus, recruited his disciples to join him in believing that the mountain would crumble, and its temple would tremble. Which is why on Holy Tuesday, we remember that Jesus is the new temple and tree who provides for the world and gives them the fruit of life to eat.
4. Spy Wednesday:
We remember when Jesus was prepared for burial and when Judas became a spy, when everyone knew for one reason or another that Jesus had to die. Like all of Israel's kings, Jesus was anointed. It was a sign to all people that he was God's chosen, the one God appointed. But the woman who anointed him saw her brother Lazarus resurrected by this king.
And Jesus said he would die and rise again, so, she was preparing him with this embalming. But Judas, one of Jesus' disciples, saw the anointing as a waste and decided to betray this king to his rivals. Which is why on Holy Wednesday, we remember that this king was seen by some as a rival that must be captured and tried. While others saw that his death would lead to resurrection life. But everyone knew that Jesus had to die.
5. Maundy Thursday:
We remember a meal and a covenant, a feast called Passover and a new promise from our king on top of it. The Passover meal celebrated Israel's freedom from Egypt. They were saved by the blood of a lamb and now remember that salvation every time they eat it. But Jesus said the meal now represents his body and blood. He will be the lamb that brings their freedom.
This new meal also brought a new agreement. For when Israel was first freed from Egypt, they received a covenant that they would be God's people and God would be their king. Which is why on Holy Thursday, we remember that Jesus brings a new promise that through his death, we will be his, and we will be free, and in his resurrection, he will be our king.
6. Good Friday:
We remember when Jesus was arrested, when the Son of God was questioned, and when the false guilt of an innocent man by worldly powers was accepted. Jesus is king, so much so that his path to the grave actually looked like a procession to a throne. For he was clothed in royal robes, coronated with thorns, and bowed to by his patrols. Jesus was lifted-up as a king taking his royal seat, and above his throne, that was a Roman tree, was a sign that said: Jesus is king.
And this king used his power to forgive his captors, he used his authority to save his tormentors. Jesus, our king, used his sovereignty to die for the sins of all humanity. Which is why on Good Friday, we remember that when the king of the universe was brought low and diminished, it was actually his crowning achievement. Which is why he could say, "It is finished."
7. The Holy Day Saturday:
Jesus Sabbathed, for he finished the work for which he was destined. After six days of holy-week work, on the seventh day in a tomb, he rested. The king had finished his campaign. He waged war against sin and won. For on the cross, all the condemnation that rode out against us Jesus bore, and it was done. So, there's nothing more to do, no score to settle, no work is left, nothing for us or Jesus to do this day but enjoy his hard-earned rest. Which is why on Holy Saturday, we remember everything was done. There's nothing to be added. So, we join Jesus in his rest. We join him in his Sabbath.
8. The Easter Sunday Meaning:
On Easter day, the first full moon, the day of Resurrection, we remember when Jesus proved his kingship beyond all suspicion and all question. For we know a king is only as powerful as the enemy he has beaten. And on this day, King Jesus fought the grave, and it was death that was defeated. So, as a newly crowned king, the good news of Jesus spread, the news of how God's son died for our sins and rose from the dead.
Then, King Jesus ascended to the highest throne above all principalities and above all men, and he is now reigning with God until the day he comes again. Which is why on Easter Sunday, we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For it is the day we knew for sure that we have a king who saves and reigns on Earth and in Heaven.
So, this Resurrection Sunday, remember the King of holy-week who, on Palm Sunday, rode out like a rival king, Who on Monday and Tuesday, pronounced destruction on the temple and his final victory. Who on Wednesday, was prepared for burial like royalty, and on Thursday, announced the new covenant of his monarchy. Who on Friday went to war with death, his crucifixion on a Roman tree, and on Saturday rested from all his work in a Sabbath sleep. But, who on Sunday, rose from the dead and proved he is who the whole Bible and this whole week claimed him to be: our God In the flesh, our King of kings, our Savior who conquered death and reigns eternally. That's what Easter means, the day of Jesus.
That's what Holy Week is trying to teach us. It's the story of our king who defeated death, which is why Easter is about Jesus death and resurrection so that we may have eternal life (John 5:24).