Holy Week 2020
In Christian circles, Holy Week is a time when multitudes of believers commemorate the earthly ministry and the atoning work of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. Holy Week began this past Sunday (Palm Sunday) and ends on Easter Sunday with a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.
With COVID-19 turning all our lives upside down, Holy Week 2020 presents churches and Christians unprecedented obstacles and opportunities in figuring out ways to observe the week leading up to Easter Sunday. As is probably true with your home church, my home church, Trinity Bible of Richardson, has been conducting services online for about a month. For Easter, we plan on doing the same, recording Sunday’s content on Thursday night, but also streaming a Good Friday service in real time.
What is Holy Week?
In the Christian calendar, Holy Week is the week immediately preceding Easter Sunday, beginning with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday by some Christian denominations. The earliest references to the custom of marking this week are found in 3rd and 4th century church writings.
Palm Sunday marks the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a significant public event in his earthly ministry. In the Near East, the donkey served as a traditional mount for kings and rulers. By riding in on a donkey, Jesus implicitly proclaimed that He was the king of his people. Riding into Jerusalem near the time of Passover invoked images of Messianic prophecies recorded in the Old Testament and Jewish religious texts and teaching. Contrasted with war horses and human pride, a donkey evoked an image of peaceful humility, a stark departure from the previous kings and rulers that the people had come to know.
Palm Sunday is followed by Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday. Historic events that are often associated and commemorated on those days include the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree, the cleansing of the Temple, and Jesus’ prediction of his pending death. Holy Wednesday is also known as Spy Wednesday because it focuses on Judas finalizing his intended betrayal of Jesus.
Maundy Thursday centers on the activities of the Last Supper during which Christ reveals the model for communion. Throughout the course of the meal, Jesus shares His upcoming betrayal at the hands of one His disciples, Peter’s denial, and Christ’s death and resurrection.
Good Friday marks the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of the Romans and by the request of the Jewish religious leaders. Good Friday is a somber, mournful day on which Jesus Christ, a blameless, innocent man and the Son of the God Most High, is killed. Yet, amid the dark cloud hovering over the day, Jesus’ death offers a glimmer of light, because it is through Jesus’ death that you and I are forgiven because by dying Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for our sins, once and for all. The road to our forgiveness and reconciliation with God was not an easy path. Jesus bled and died so that you and I might live.
Holy Saturday, commonly called Black Saturday, marks the hurried burial of Jesus because in those days, the Sabbath was observed on Saturday. Today, most Christians observe the Sabbath on Sunday because that is the day that Jesus was resurrected (hence Resurrection Sunday).
Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His victory over death and His opening the door leading to eternal life. It is the most important day in the Christian world, and by my belief, the most important day in all of world history.
Why Easter Matters
Easter marks the historic resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, from the dead after His public crucifixion and burial in a tomb sealed by a massive stone. The resurrection refers to Jesus being raised from the dead on the third day after His death on a cross at Calvary.
As Christians, we believe that in laying down His life on Good Friday, Jesus fully paid the penalty for sin as a perfect, spotless sacrifice. In coming to life after His death and burial, Jesus defeated the power of sin and death, in the process purchasing eternal life for any and all who repent of their sins and proclaim their belief in Him.
Easter matters because it offers the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the opportunity to live a new life in eternal fellowship with God. Easter rights what went wrong and reunites that which was once separated. Easter matters because it demonstrates God’s love for us—you and me—and shows us the length He is willing to go to in order to have relationship with us.
Easter in Scripture
The word Easter is not found in the Bible nor seen in the celebrations of the early church. Like Christmas, the tradition of celebrating Easter developed over time like traditions often do, and its observance was recognized later in church history.
The biblical accounts of Jesus’ death on the cross, his burial, and his resurrection can be found in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you want to read for yourself about what happened during Holy Week, you can do so in the following chapters: Matthew 27-28, Mark 15-16, Luke 23-24 and John 19-20.
As you consider the importance of this week, I encourage you to spend time talking to God in prayer, reading and meditating on God’s word, and worshiping Him for what He has done.
- What activities and traditions will you and your family participate in as part of your observance of Holy Week 2020?
- How has COVID-19 impacted your usual means and methods of observing Holy Week?
- In lieu of the normal activities being hindered by COVID-19, how will you spend this Easter Sunday?
- How can we pray for you?
Father, during this unusual Holy Week, allow us to focus on You and what You did for us through Your Son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross at Calvary. Help us remember the lessons You taught us through how Jesus lived and why Christ died. We thank You, O Lord, for the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of Your son and for the gift of eternal life made possible through His resurrection. We thank You, O God, for the presence of the Holy Spirit, through whom we learn how to live a more Christlike life and grow in our own reflection of Your image. Each day, help us become more like You, O Lord. Thank You, God because Easter matters, not due to anything we did, but EVERYTHING YOU have done for us. In Jesus’ name, by the power of Your Spirit. Amen.
We live in unusual times. In our time on God’s green earth, Terri and I have seen and experienced a lot of unimaginable moments. None hold a candle to what we are witnessing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Terri and I continue to pray for you as you persevere through the global crisis caused by COVID-19.
Stay healthy. Be safe. Keep the faith.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™is a writing ministry of longtime blogger Rainer Bantau, a chaplain actively and intentionally sharing the love of Jesus with people working in the marketplace, the homeless, and wherever else he encounters them.
The Archaeological Study Bible (2005). Zondervan Publishing. Grand Rapids, Michigan.