Holy Week: What's all the fuss?
For many, this week's significance rests in the fact that it is Spring Break. Most know that it always falls over Easter -- a last vestige of religion in the school system -- and that on Easter, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. So what? In lieu of an official editorial this week, I am here to tell you that the answer to "so what" is a profound, fundamental statement on the meaning of life that is quite literally earth shattering.
Two thousand years ago in a town called Bethlehem, Jesus was born to an earthly mother and father, which fulfilled a prophecy from several hundred years before that a virgin would give birth to a child as a sign from God and that his name would be Immanuel, meaning "God with us".
After his birth, Christ lived a life free from sin wherein he overcame temptation from Satan, healed the sick, proclaimed a message of love, and riled many of the institutions of his time. He foretold of his impending betrayal and crucifixion to his disciples, many of whom did not understand.
We now come to what Christians call Holy Week. I will certainly concede that especially in an area like this where religious tradition is so prevalent, people of faith do not always do a good job explaining what that means, assuming that everyone just knows. Of course, that is not the case. Here is a brief explanation of the components of "Holy Week", Christ's last on earth.
Also known as the "Triumphal Entry", Palm Sunday refers to the celebration when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem shortly before his death. People took palm branches to the streets to meet him and shouted, "Hosanna!" (a Hebrew expression of praise meaning "Save!"), "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!", and "Blessed is the King of Israel!"
After this entry, Jesus entered into a final week of preaching, teaching, and healing during which he washed his disciples' feet (which given the topography and lack of hygiene of the time was a truly disgusting, humbling task), predicted that Peter -- who went on to be the rock on which the church was built and to author two books of the Bible himself -- would disown him three times in the coming day, and promised that the Holy Spirit would come.
The Thursday before Easter commemorates Jesus's final meal with the twelve men who had followed him for years prior, supporting his ministry. Often known as the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would ultimately betray him, and then broke bread and poured wine to share with those disciples. In remembrance of this meal, Christians take Communion on a regular basis, usually including on Maundy Thursday.
Upon completion of the meal, Jesus went to a garden called Gethsemane to pray one final time, at which point he asked his Father in Heaven to spare him what was about to come if it was possible, but if not, for God's will to be done.
Late in the evening, Judas Iscariot -- one of the twelve disciples -- cashed in on the deal he had struck with the chief priests (30 silver coins in exchange for handing over Jesus) by kissing Christ, signifying him as the one. Although followers moved to fight, Jesus stopped them and said that the Scriptures must be fulfilled -- he must die.
Jesus was dragged before the high priests and elders and prosecuted for blasphemy; he had the audacity to say that he was the Christ. Upon confirming that he was, men spat on him and beat him.
Meanwhile, just as Jesus had foretold, Peter denied knowing Jesus on three separate occasions for fear of the consequences in confirming. Emblematic of the power of redemption, though, he still went on to a life of faithful service to Christ.
After facing the elders, Jesus was dragged before Pontius Pilate, the governor, who could find no reason to execute him, but no gumption to stand up to the mob, and famously "washed his hands" of responsibility for Jesus's death.
Christ was thus led away to his crucifixion, carrying his own cross. He was nailed to the tree, mocked by soldiers and citizens alike, and abandoned. Hours later, he died.
Upon witnessing the proceedings, even the Roman centurion tasked with guarding Jesus was convinced of his divinity.
The manner in which all this occurred was clearly no coincidence; it fulfilled numerous prophecies from hundreds of years prior.
The story does not end with death, but with renewal. Three days after he was buried, on the Sabbath, two women went to look at the tomb but found it empty. Christ had risen! And with his rising from the dead comes the opportunity for people to be assured of their own salvation as through Christ's re-entrance into Heaven comes the guarantee that those who believe in Him will live also.
Stepping back, the natural question is: why would God send his only Son to be crucified? The answer lies in the sin of man. God created humans without sin, but when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, that sin had to be punished -- the "wages of sin is death." For thousands of years, people of faith made offerings to God to atone for their sins such as lambs. They did this based on God's promise for a Savior, who was Jesus.
Because Jesus died on the cross, those who call on his name as their Lord and Savior are spared from the eternal wrath of God for their sin. When people say "good news of the Gospel" or "amazing grace" -- it is to this concept that they are referring. And they are right: it is good news, it is amazing. It just is not self-evident to those who have not heard.
The best news of all is that it is available to anyone. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
And it is the duty of those who have been saved to tell others about it -- people do not just intrinsically know, even in a place with as strong a church influence as Lancaster County.
Yeah, Easter is a little bit more than a few days off school to eat chocolate and have egg hunts. It is the fundamental miracle of humankind … and its fruit is available to you.
This op-ed reflects the position of the stated author. It does not constitute an official position of the LSNews.org editorial board, the Lampeter-Strasburg School District, nor the advisor of LSNews.org. Questions or concerns can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
--Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief