Tag Archives: Holy Week

Believe it or not

Around this time of year you can count on media attention on the person and story of Jesus. A few years ago, an article appeared in Newsweek magazine where the religion editor explained that “Easter is a celebration of the final act of the Passion, in which Jesus rose from his tomb in his body three days after his execution. The Gospels insist on the veracity of this supernatural event. Jesus died and rose again so that all his followers could, eventually, do the same. This story has strained the credulity of even the most devoted believer. For truly, it’s unbelievable.”

Unbelievable? The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we the most miserable people in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Is it all fanciful? Has the story of the itinerant preacher who walked the earth two thousand years ago been transformed by mythical proportions? Can we really believe what the Bible has to say about Jesus of Nazareth?

In his marvelous book, King’s Cross, Timothy Keller offered “a meditation on the historical Christian premise that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection form the central event of cosmic and human history as well as the central organizing principle of our own lives. Said another way, the whole story of the world – and how we fit into it – is most clearly understood through a careful, direct look at the story of Jesus.”

So this is not a debate about one of many historical figures who shaped the way we think or live. It is far more important. There is no list. He has no peers. There is no one like Jesus.

As we enter Holy Week, much of the world will shift its attention to the improbable story of God entering His creation, becoming human, suffering an ignoble death, and stirring a following that exists to this day. In Christian symbol, the Lion of Judah became the Lamb of God. The altar of sacrifice was a crude Roman cross where one innocent man died for the sake of every human. Isaiah called Him a man of sorrows who carried the burden of every sinner and every sin.

We don’t expect gods to act that way. He came into the world in the most primitive way possible. His abode was not a palace. He had no human-devised credential. He was a common man who came from an obscure village in the hill country of Palestine.

As the week began, He rode into Jerusalem at the beginning of the festival where great crowds had gathered. But He didn’t ride on a war horse as a conquering king might have done. Keller described His triumphal entrance this way: “Here was Jesus Christ, the King of authoritative, miraculous power, riding into town on a steed fit for a child or a hobbit.”

Jesus did a lot of things in unexpected ways. He focused His attention on the outcasts and the downtrodden. He refused to cater to the powerful. He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He who knew no sin became sin so that humanity be freed from the punishment we deserved

As we experience this most important week in the entire year, I pray we remember what Jesus determined each of us is worth … whatever it took.

And so it began

No, it did not begin with palms waving and coats thrown on the ground as Jesus passed. It did not begin with planning to secure the right animal upon which Jesus rode. It did not begin with the swell of public excitement and anticipation or the dread and angst of the Jewish authorities as Jesus approached the holy city.

“As Jesus was going along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. When He came to the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God at the top of their voices” (Luke 19:36,37). “This was the moment they’d been waiting for. All the old songs came flooding back, and they were singing, chanting, cheering, and laughing. At last their dreams were going to come true. But in the middle of it all, their leader wasn’t singing.” “When He came near and saw the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

Why did He weep? Prophecies were being fulfilled. The Passover festival annually carried the hope that this was the year that Messiah would appear. Messiah did appear, but He was not chosen for an earthly kingdom. He came for a higher purpose. His tears flowed as He saw a people looking for another kind of king. He cried because of the cost of redemption. His sorrow overflowed because many would reject Him and every prophecy that hailed His coming.

It began at the foundation of the world. A plan had been formed to restore a broken world and to reclaim a lost humanity. It began with the Creator’s determination to save His creation from the ravages of sin and death. It began with a mission to save the world, not condemn it.

Holy Week acknowledges, mourns, and then rejoices over the plan that would send the guiltless to pay for the guilty. The perfect Lamb of God would be sacrificed on the cruel altar of the cross.

Jesus had set His face to Jerusalem. He had told His disciples what would happen when He came to the city. He was not surrendering to His fate; He was taking charge of the arrangements. Just as He set in motion the parade on the day we call Palm Sunday, He would make preparation for the Passover meal where He would share His last supper. He would see it through – blood, sweat, and tears. The King had arrived …

He Knew

Lois Cheney wrote: “ Who was Jesus? He was a very brave person. He knew what was coming. He walked up and into Jerusalem – just like that. A couple of nights before, He sat on a hill and looked and looked at that city. I expect He prayed, too. He saw the whole thing coming, and He walked right into it – just like that. And He did it. And He chose to do it. Of His own will.”

Holy Week. During these weeks of Lent, we have been preparing. But none of us understand the preparation required of Jesus. Luke 9:51 reads that Jesus resolutely set His face toward Jerusalem. He told His disciples what would happen when He got there. He made preparations for His entry, for His confrontations in the Temple courtyard, for the Passover meal, for the ordeal of the cross.

He knew. He knew what it would take. He knew the plan. He knew the cost. And He did it. And He chose to do it. Of His own will.

Open your Bible. Read of His passion. Follow the Gospel narrative captured by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It was a week that changed everything. Roman might, Temple authority, Satanic power, the devastating reality of sin, evil, and death … all gather to confront Him, to oppose Him, to defeat Him.

He knew. He knew what it would take. He knew the plan. He knew the cost. And He did it. And He chose to do it. Of His own will.

Simply Jesus. Who was He? What did He do and say? What does it matter? Have you come up empty? You should. Empty manger, empty cross, empty tomb.

He didn’t come to prove anything. He didn’t need the world’s validation. He already had the authority He needed. He possessed the power He required.

He knew. He knew what it would take. He knew the plan. He knew the cost. And He did it. And He chose to do it. Of His own will.

We will make choices next week as to how we remember, how we observe, how we pray, how we repent, how we praise, and how we worship. Like our sister churches, we will offer many ways to mark Holy Week. Make good choices.

One More

One more. One more Sunday to worship together in the fellowship of the Peachtree Room. One more opportunity to experience the technology that has allowed us to communicate important coming events, play worship videos, assist us with Scripture and music texts, and encourage guests to get to know us better.

One more. One more Sunday until Holy Week. Next Sunday we will re-enter our sanctuary to begin the most sacred year of the Christian calendar. New opportunities await us we continue the warm and inviting environment that Wieuca as we make our way toward Easter.

We have missed some of you during this interim time. I encourage you to make your attendance and involvement an even higher priority. Let’s honor the Wieuca value of community by finding friends and inviting guests to sit close and toward the front of the sanctuary. As one of the worship leaders here, I cannot express more firmly the difference it makes when we lead people instead of pews in worship.

Please note the schedule for Holy Week this year. Palm Sunday, March 29 begins our observance and celebration. The Maundy Thursday service on April 2 is a meaningful service of reflection and gratitude as we contemplate the sacrifice of Christ. It will be held in the Peachtree Room at 7:00 pm. Wieuca hosts the Good Friday Service on April 3 in the sanctuary. Monsignor McNamee from the Cathedral of Christ the King will be preaching. Ministers from Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church will join me as worship leaders. Congregations from Buckhead have been sharing this special service for many years. Let’s be good hosts for this noon service. The Annual Easter Egg Hunt drew over 1000 people last year. Volunteers are needed to help us take care of the great crowd that will coming. Easter Sunday is the most glorious day we have as Christians. We join brothers and sisters around the world in proclaiming the ultimate victory over sin and death. He is risen.

It is not too early to make plans to attend the next Global Leadership Summit in August. Additional information is available in the newsletter. The full faculty will be announced soon. Mark August 6-7 to take part. We will once again offer our “50 for 50” program. The first 50 Wieucans sign up for $50.

Spring is coming. The promise of new life also encourages new commitment and renewed joy in our relationship with God and His people. It is not the same when you are not here to celebrate!

Thinking Of You

No other time of year brings the same spectrum of emotions to the faithful Christian as does Holy Week. During Holy Week we celebrate at the gates of Jerusalem  we gather pensively in the Upper Room, we mourn at the foot of the cross , and we are awe-struck as we peer into the empty tomb. But one overriding question holds the varying emotions of the week together in tension: “Who is Jesus, really?”  Every Holy Week, if we think seriously about Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, we are forced to wrestle repeatedly with just exactly who Jesus is.

In John’s gospel, we are presented with what scholars call a “high Christology.” In the Johannine tradition, Jesus is described as co-eternal with the Father, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, light, truth and life. More than any other gospel tradition, the Johannine tradition emphasizes the divinity of Jesus and his identity as Christ, the Son of God and savior of the world.

But in the middle of all that high, conceptual talk about light and truth and life, we also get a remarkably human portrait of Christ. In John’s gospel, as Jesus prepares for his death, he has an intimate, extended conversation with his disciples—person to person, friend to friend.

This conversation, set right in the middle of Holy Week,  is commonly referred to as the farewell discourses because Jesus uses it to prepare his disciples for his departure.  The conversation begins in John 13 with Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and continues through John 17. If you want to know who Jesus is, there’s no better place to start.

So who is Jesus really?  Cosmic redeemer? Very God of very God? Co-eternal with the Father? Light and truth? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Easter is an especially appropriate time to understand Jesus that way.

But John also makes it clear that Jesus’ desire is to be a friend and confidant to you and to me. Even more, in the farewell discourses, Jesus demonstrates his human need–and understands our human need–for personal relationship and reassurance even as he prepares to take on the sins of the world.

Imagine Jesus wanting to share Holy Week with you.  Imagine Jesus taking the last of his free moments on earth to explain himself to you, to confide in you, to call you friend. In the gospel of John that’s exactly what Jesus does. The miracle of Holy Week is that the cosmic redeemer calls us his friends (John 15:12-17).

But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus concludes the conversation by praying specifically for the first disciples and then praying specifically for you. The last words Jesus speaks in John’s gospel before he is arrested are words of prayer for you. I  don’t know about you, but to me that’s pretty awesome.

You were the last thing on Jesus’ mind before he was arrested. Jesus prepared for the cross by praying for you. His prayer is printed below.  How will you prepare for the weekend?

“My prayer is not for them (the first disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those who you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”  -John 17:20-26

May it be so. Happy Easter.

Along the Journey – Holy Week

Most of us know the story so well we could tell it in great detail. I wonder why we don’t. We know that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. We know the crowds who cheered Him that day were replaced by a mob screaming for His crucifixion days later. We know He went through humiliation and agony, dragged before men who would pronounce sentence over Him. We know He died a horrific death. We know the tomb was waiting on Friday. We know the tomb was empty on Sunday.

We know Holy Week begins this Sunday. We know that we have many opportunities to share with friends and colleagues about the true meaning of these days. We know that Jesus commissioned His followers to spread the news. We know the news. What will we do with what we know?