By Pastor Sam Gutierrez
As we grow into spiritual adulthood, we come to see more and more clearly that following Jesus will cost us something. It requires us to die to our selfishness. It requires us to lay down our wills. It requires us to abandon false pursuits. In other words, following Jesus means… we have to die.
Jesus teaches us to pick up our cross and follow him. Jesus never asks us to do something that he himself is not willing to do first. During Holy Week, we see Jesus struggle to lay down his life and trust in God’s provision, goodness, and care. It’s not easy to do. With surrender comes a great deal of struggle. Dying is hard. Yet, the call of Jesus remains, “follow me.”
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday and concludes the following Sunday on Easter morning. The days between are a journey that includes Jesus’ confrontation with religious authorities, washing the disciples’ feet, a final meal, and Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Holy Week is one of the most significant weeks in the Christian Liturgical calendar. Here are five key moments from Holy Week to pay special attention to:
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the city swells with pilgrims from all over the region to celebrate the feast of the Passover. As Jesus enters the city, people place palm branches on the ground before him, celebrating his arrival as if he is a victorious king returning from battle. But Jesus rides a donkey, signifying that he is a different kind of king—a humble servant who identifies with the poor. His victory will be one of self-sacrifice and ultimate love, not military might.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus eats his final meal with his disciples and washes their feet. In bending down and washing his friends’ and enemy’s feet, Jesus demonstrates true spiritual maturity and models for us the right use of power and authority – to serve others rather than self.
The suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus redeems the whole word by laying down his life and trusting completely in the love of the Father. Jesus’ life, broken and poured out, shows us the depth of the Father’s love for us. Jesus cries out from the cross, “It is finished,” meaning that Jesus has completely paid for our sins and has done everything that needs to be done to bring about the reconciliation and renewal of the whole world.
A strange, empty and “in-between” day. Jesus is dead. The hopes and dreams of the people who followed Jesus also died on Friday. Hope is gone. The light of the world has been extinguished. This is the end of the story…or is it?
Jesus is raised from the dead. His resurrection is a stamp of approval of his faithful obedience to the Father and a decisive victory over sin – a triumph of life over death. Hallelujah! He is Risen! Yes, He is Risen indeed!
Holy Week has the potential to form us in powerful ways. The invitation is to participate and find our story inside the big story of God’s loving, redemptive work. The main lesson of Holy Week is if you want to live, then you have to die.
Holy Week will look and feel different this year. The “shelter in place” mandate means that we will be walking the Holy Week road with those in our households and watching online worship services. But we also walk with Jesus – who is with all of us – in our homes and in our hearts. He is calling us to lay down our lives and follow him through the pain of Golgotha. He is calling us to rise with him on Easter morning. Alleluia.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”