If you are going through some really tough times, and I mean really tough times: the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one either to death or to a relationship breaking up, financial difficulties, if your health is failing or you or a friend has been given an unexpected diagnosis, if you feel riddled with anxiety and fear and feel like you’re going through the worst of times, I would urge you to think of Easter week.
When Easter week rolls around a lot of the focus is on Easter Day. There’s the candy and Easter bunnies, new outfits for church, and the Easter services are filled with joy and celebration. But rather than focus on Easter Day, I’ve always pondered the events that happened that week leading up to Easter.
When I’ve gone through difficult times, gut-wrenching, heart-wrenching difficult times, I think of Easter week.
God is with us through our trials and tribulations every step of the way to give us the strength to make it through. I look at Jesus during Easter week and what he went through as far as physical pain and suffering.
It’s not easy to look at Good Friday and rarely do we look at Saturday. What happened on Saturday? Seems that God was absent on Saturday. Just when I said he’s with us always, I don’t know what happened on Saturday.
Look at the week. Look at how quickly life changed for Jesus within a WEEK.
(The following events are captured as if it were a week. That is how we celebrate Easter week starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Sunday. The verses quoted and interpretations are taken from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)
Sunday – Jesus is Celebrated with Shouts of Hosanna
Jesus is exulted to shouts of Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel! He rides through the city being celebrated.
Thursday – The First Betrayal at Passover Supper
Later in the week was the feast of Passover. During their meal Jesus acknowledges Judas, the disciple who will betray him.
After Supper Jesus Predicts Peter’s Three Betrayals
Jesus knew that his time was drawing near. He felt deeply grieved and distressed. He chose to go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Before entering the garden, Jesus told the disciples that all of them would desert him this evening. Remember that the 12 disciples were men who followed Jesus. They lived together, traveled together. Their fellowship represented great love, trust and friendship.
Peter piped up and said, “Though all of the rest desert you, I will never desert you.” Jesus said, “I assure you, this night before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Three More Betrayals at the Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus asks the disciples to watch as he goes further ahead to be alone with his Father. He falls on his face in fear and anguish asking God that if it be His will to not let what is about to happen happen. When he goes back to meet with his disciples, they are asleep. He asked, “Couldn’t you stay awake at watch with me for an hour?”
He went away again a second time and a third time. Each time he returned, they were asleep. He was abandoned by those closest to him.
Judas Shows Up with a Mob Carrying Swords and Clubs
Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. Jesus is taken to Caiaphas, the high priest where they find him guilty of blasphemy. All of the disciples deserted him and left.
Peter Denies Jesus Three Times
Peter looked on from afar. He was recognized as a follower of Jesus. He denied it saying that he didn’t know the man. He denied knowing Jesus two more times. At the end of the third denial, a rooster crowed.
Jesus is Handed Over to Pilate
Jesus was put before Pilate, but Pilate found no fault in him.
The custom was to release a prisoner during the Passover. The crowd cried out to release Barabbas, a robber.
The Crowd Cries to Crucify Him
Jesus was flogged, a crown of thorns was pierced into his head. A purple robe was put upon him.
Pilate brought him forth before the crowd. The chief priest and officers cried out, “Crucify him!”
Pilate sought again to release him, but the crowd cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!”
Jesus is Beaten and Carries His Cross
Jesus was stripped and ridiculed by the soldiers. They spat on him, struck him and put the crown of thorns on his head. They led him away to be crucified.
He carried the heavy cross until he could carry it no longer. A man named Simon carried his cross to the hill of Golgotha, meaning Place of the Skull.
Ridiculed on the Cross
The robbers on either side of Jesus insulted him and asked him to prove himself by coming down from the cross.
The chief priests and elders scoffed at him.
Good Friday – Last Words before Death
Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” He requests something to drink and is given vinegar. After he received the vinegar he said, “It is finished!” Then Jesus died.
Easter Sunday – Jesus Triumphs Over Death
Jesus was taken to a tomb. On the third day, he rose again. He appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples.
John’s Gospel shares several appearances made by Jesus, all delivering a message of peace. The Holy Spirit has been given. John says, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, by believing, you may have life through his name.”
“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus said those words in chapter 3 verse 16. The disciples had no clue that Jesus would physically die at this point.
Conquerors and Victors
Easter week starts with cries of Hosanna, moves into cries of Crucify him, and ends in cries of, He is risen!
Whatever you are going through, remember the story of Easter week. Jesus experienced tremendous joy, unimaginable suffering and tremendous triumph. May you be a conqueror and victor. Know that God’s love, strength and power is with you always.
The picture of the cross was taken at Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom. The Cathedral was destroyed in a fierce bombing during World War II. Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ˜Father Forgive” inscribed on the Sanctuary wall.