Use these daily reflections and Scripture passages to guide your time with the Lord during Holy Week 2020.
By Ben Davis
Memory can be tricky. Certain events – such as the joyful birth of a child or a moment of deep tragedy – can be indelibly chiseled on the interior stone of our minds, while other things, like what I had for lunch last Tuesday, seem impossible to recall. Collectively, we keep important memories alive by reenacting them. To memorialize American independence, we sing the Star-Spangled Banner and shoot off fireworks. Doing so helps to solidify our identity as Americans.
The Bible has a word for memory. It’s called anamnesis. Jesus uses it in Luke 22:19: “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Anamnesis is a rich, textured word that calls us to remember an event by reliving it. So when we participate in the Lord’s Supper we aren’t simply remembering something that happened a long time ago. Rather, the significance of that defining moment comes to life as we perform it together. Performing the high drama of the Eucharist forges our Christian identity.
Holy Week and Easter – like Advent, Christmas, and Pentecost – have the same lived character. The Church remembers Jesus’ horrifying crucifixion and glorious resurrection by way of reenactment. Throughout, the pendulum of our emotions swings back and forth as we feel the rush of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and then the sorrowful tragedy of momentary defeat as he walks the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow).
The essence of Holy Week is found in the Paschal Triduum (the “Three Days”), which consists of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. On Maundy Thursday we enter the upper room, where Jesus takes the posture of a servant, washing the dirt from his disciples’ feet. Then on Good Friday we are moved to feel the fraught tension between the scorn of Jesus’ rejection and the shame of our own complicity in his agonizing death. Finally, on Holy Saturday we sit in hallowed silence as our Lord enters the deep bowels of the grave. On this day we contemplate the mystery of Jesus “preaching the gospel to the dead” (1 Peter 4:6).
Easter is different. We no longer look back, for the horizon of God’s future is right before us in the resurrection of Christ! Christ’s future is now our future (1 Cor. 15). Going forward, we lean into the power of the Holy Spirit and practice resurrection. In Easter’s bright light, we join the chorus of saints and the company of heaven, singing:
Death is swallowed up in victory!
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
Palm Sunday - April 5
Scripture Reading: Mark 11:1-10 >>
by Pastor Joe Skillen
Jesus’ journey from Jericho (see Mark 10:46) to Jerusalem was only 15 ½ miles, which was not too unreasonable for seasoned sojourners like Jesus and his friends. The elevation change over that distance, however, was a 3800 feet climb! We can imagine how taxing that would have been, even for the most able among them.
Perhaps this geography adds a metaphorical element to Mark’s message; Jesus’ ministry has been quite a climb. From the first exorcism in Capernaum, to his brave confrontations with his religious opponents, to the courageous inclusion of misfits and sinners, to the multiplication of food, and to his countless sermons and miracles… Jesus put God’s world back together under tremendous pressure and gritty effort.
So the expectations for what he’d do next (while in Jerusalem and during the Passover, no less) whipped the crowd into a fever pitch. Of course they had songs. Of course they had hopes.
Isn’t interesting, then, that by the time they reach the top, there was no time that day to do anything else? (see Mark 11:11) What a letdown. All of that momentum came to a screeching halt. Or at least a pause, until the next few days.
Perhaps a deeper cynicism set in that night. I’m sure a few asked themselves, “What would Jesus be able to do with a mob full of poor people waving palm branches?” Years before, Pontius Pilate rode into Jerusalem on a war horse with legions of armies. Did Jesus’ mob expect to match Rome’s might?
Jesus’ march on Jerusalem looked like a lot of hype, too late in the day, and with too little firepower. It seemed absurd.
As a writer, Mark is kind to us, for he gives us a hint of what would happen in the final acts of the gospel. Jesus’ movement would begin to break down and to disappear. His life would be taken. But, this would be no sign of insignificance, for the Son came to “give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) “Rub your eyes and look closely,” Mark says, “the world is won when we bet on the longest of odds and the most humble of sources.”
Part of embracing Jesus’ gospel is to see the wisdom of small beginnings, to trust in the power that is revealed through weakness, and to be more impressed by humility than with credentials. May God give us the grace to believe in that type of world.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we relish God’s gift of salvation to us that came through such humble and unassuming means. By your grace, teach us the profound power that you show through our weaknesses. We ask in Christ’s name, Amen
Monday, April 6
Gospel Reading: Mark 14:1-9 >>
by Pastor Stan Van Den Berg
We observe Holy Week in order to remember. Of course, we remember Jesus, but Jesus wanted us to also remember another person: The woman who anointed him with the perfume. “Truly, I tell you, whenever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
This woman performed a costly act. The perfume was costly and people thought her actions were extravagant. She also did not care what people thought. It was certainly unconventional to walk into a house and pour an oily perfume on the Lord’s head. But she was moved by love and devotion to him.
Her actions were also a prophetic act. She “anointed him for his burial.” She did not know Jesus would die, but Jesus knew he would be killed and buried; and she without knowing it, performed an action that was prophetic.
What does this have to do with us? Jesus commended her extravagant gift to him. He said, it would be remembered. When was the last time we were extravagant when it came to Jesus? What have we done for him that is costly? I’m not talking money per se. But, I find that my actions are often measured and reasonable, even when it comes to Jesus. But am I ever extravagant with him in giving, in worship, in service, in witness?
The Lord’s extravagance is demonstrated in his outrageous act of laying down his life for sinners, in his burial and in his descent into the place of the dead. His extravagance is experienced in his pursuit of us and in his persisting with us. It is also found in the abundant grace and mercy he extends to us every day.
He is extravagant with us. We should think about how we can be extravagant with him.
Dear Lord, We praise you and thank you that you are extravagant with us. Your grace is abundant. Lord move me to love you and serve you extravagantly. I invite you to put into my mind and heart an extravagant action, done for you or in your name. Loosen the fear that keeps me bound to convention and propriety. You, buried and living Lord, are worth it.
In your name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen
Tuesday, April 7
Gospel Reading: John 12:20-36 >>
by Dr. Richard Spann
Today in our remembrance of Holy week we view our Lord in His conversation with the Greeks as well as with the crowd that was around Him. The consciousness of His cross was ever before Him. To the Greeks the fact of His cross was emphasized when He said “the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” (v. 23) The passion of His cross was mentioned in the phrase “now my heart is troubled.” (v. 27) And finally the triumph of His cross was described by His statement, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (v. 31)
What our Savior desired most on this day was characterized by His statement “Father, glorify your name!” (v. 28) What name is He referring to? Jehovah! The becoming One! The One who will become all we need Him to be! The name of the Father was glorified when Jesus became all we needed Him to be. He took our death that we might gain His life. He became sin for us that we might become heirs of His righteousness. He descended into hell that we might ascend into heaven.
Our reflections on Holy week are not to cease by simply considering what He has done for us. The Lord says to us “put your trust in the light.” (v. 36) What does it mean for us to trust in the light? To trust Him is to follow Him, and to be with Him where He is. “Where I am, my servant also will be.” (v. 26) Are we where Christ would be in our communities and in our world? Are we, as kernels of wheat, ready to fall to the ground in service and love for others, thus producing many seeds, or are we content to remain alone on the stalk? The Lord says, “My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (v. 26)
In following Him, many troubles may come our way. Is our response to them “Father, save me from this hour?”, or is it “Father, glorify your name?” If our desire is to glorify Him, we are always held in the hollow of His hand. Our Lord only permits that which will purify and prepare us for our eternal work in the ages to come. We can trust Him!
Dear Lord, we praise you for all that you have accomplished for us and in us. We rejoice in your life given to us and we trust you to be glorified in our lives. May we be enabled by your Spirit to join you in the service to others that will result in the increase of your body, the church. In your name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen
Wednesday, April 8
Gospel Reading: John 13:36-38 >>
by Ben Marquez
“Peter, humanly, attributes too much to his own strength. Let us learn to distrust our own strength.” (John Calvin)
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” (John 13:36-38 ESV)
Towards the end of his first letter to the church, Peter wrote these words, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:6 ESV). Peter’s instruction to the church seems to me to be connected to the experience he had with our Lord the night he denied Him.
When Jesus told Peter that he could not follow Him, He did not say ever, He simply said not now. Not content with the Lord’s answer, Peter displays not humility, but pride, and tries to convince Jesus that he is ready to lay down his life for Him. Our Lord then deals a crushing blow to Peter’s pride by giving him a little insight into his not so distant future, “The rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” In that moment Peter felt the sting of his self-assurance and pride, having been humbled by the Lord.
Though Jesus rebuked Peter, He did not rescind His promise to Peter that he would get to follow Him where He went. Some scholars believe that Jesus first alluded to Peter’s martyrdom here in John chapter 13, and then stated it more explicitly in John 21:18-19. Either way, Clement of Rome gives us the earliest record of Peter’s martyrdom in his letter to the Corinthians when he writes, “Peter, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due him.”
This Holy Week let us be reminded of two things. First, let us remember that humility comes to us in one of two ways. It can come either through humiliation, as with Peter, or through obedience, as Peter’s instruction to the church makes clear. In the former one is humbled when, putting too much stock in his own strength, the Lord comes to him with a word of rebuke. In the latter, one simply receives what God says as true, and adjusts his life according to His word. Secondly, let us remember that the Lord is never wrong in his predictions, nor will He ever rescind His promises to those who trust in Him. Praise be to God!
God of all grace, whose word never fails, forgive us for thinking too much of ourselves and for believing we have the strength to follow you when you have told us we are not yet ready. Teach us today to humble ourselves, that in the proper time, we would be prepared for You to exalt us.
Maundy Thursday, April 9
Gospel Reading: John 13:1-17, 31-35 >>
by Susan Lear
John 13 records the events of the final night before Jesus’ death. He and the disciples he loved were gathered in the Upper Room for Passover. John writes that Jesus knew “his hour had come.” By this time, he had loved the twelve disciples for three years, and now he was going to love them to the end! He would love them to the uttermost extent of love.
How does love like that look? Love like Jesus demonstrates puts God’s nature on full display for all to see!
We usually focus on the remarkable description of the foot washing. But those verses are followed by the equally important exchange in verses 31-35. There we listen in on the more private conversation Jesus has with the eleven after Judas’ departure. “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once.” So how is God glorified in Christ?
Christ – taking the form of the lowliest house slave, washing the feet of the twelve, revealed God’s nature of humble love. With the basin and the towel, Christ glorified the Father.
Christ – submitting to suffering and death on a Roman cross revealed God’s nature of lavish love. In laying down his life to save sinful, hopeless humanity, Christ glorified the Father.
And Christ – submitting himself to the grim realities of fickle human friendship and power politics revealed God’s nature of realistic love for the human race he created. In abandonment, denial and betrayal, Jesus glorified the Father.
Jesus went the full distance in loving us! And on every step of the journey he glorified His Father and revealed God’s true nature to us. “Having loved his own, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
And then Jesus gives a “new” commandment. “Love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) The “new” part of the commandment was the measure of the love – Jesus’ own love was the measure! He says to those who will follow:
– we will need to feed, heal and welcome one another no matter the circumstances
– we will need to serve one another in humility – not counting the cost
– we will need to steadfastly endure one another – even in times of broken trust, betrayal and loss.
That’s a high bar! But the “new” commandment is what Maundy Thursday is all about. Maundy comes from the Latin word for commandment. The “new” commandment Jesus gives us puts the nature of God on display for the world to see, it mirrors the lavish love of the Son, and it requires the life and power of the Spirit. When we obey the “new” commandment we have the privilege of glorifying God our Father and glorifying Christ our Savior!
Dear Heavenly Father, you alone are God and worthy to be praised. Thank you that your lavish love understands my deepest needs, forgives my greatest guilt and covers all my shame. Thank you for loving me to the uttermost. Thank you for the basin and the towel, the cross and the empty grave. Keep me near to you in love and obedience and may my worship bring you the glory you so richly deserve.
Good Friday, April 10
Gospel Reading: Mark 14:12-15:47 >>
by Pastor Mike Goolsby
The events of Good Friday (which for the Jews would have begun at sundown on Thursday) as recorded by Mark are full of ironies. For example:
– Men with evil intentions passed judgment on the only truly righteous man who ever lived (Mark 14:53-65)
– Witnesses at Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin make false claims (Mark 14:56-57) against the One who is himself Truth (c.f. John 14:6; John 18:37b)
– Peter, who claimed he would never deny Jesus, denies him three times (See Mark 14:27-31 and Mark 14:66-72)
And there are many more…
But for me, the irony that most inserts me (and you) into the midst of the events of Good Friday is the story of Barabbas (Mark 15:6-15; cf. Matt.27:20-26 and John 18:40). For his story is our story. How so?
Barabbas was an “insurrectionist” who had rebelled against the authorities. You and I have rebelled (more than once) against not only earthly authorities—parents, teachers, government leaders (e.g., ever driven over the speed limit? Lied on your taxes? We could go on here…)—but against The One who has genuine authority, God, and His Son, to whom God has given all, ultimate authority (cf. Matt. 28:18).
Mark also tells us that Barabbas was a murderer. Wait, you say, “I’m no murderer!” Really? Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-22 reveal that we have all at some time in our lives been guilty of the root cause of murder, being angry at a brother or sister in Christ. The Apostle John states that any believer who hates another brother or sister is a murderer (1 John 3:15), and implies that refusing to help a brother or sister in need when it is in our power to do so is akin to hatred (1 John 3:16-18) and by extension, murder.
Barabbas’ name, Bar-abbas, means “son of – daddy/father.” Incredibly, the one whose name describes all mankind, for we are all children of an earthly father, the rebel who was also a murderer (like me/us), was delivered from death by the True Son of the True Father. Jesus, who never rebelled, who always obeyed his Father, was substituted and crucified to pay Barabbas’ penalty that day, as well as ours. (See Isaiah 53:4-5.) How ironic.
Dear Father, I’ve not been worthy to bear your name, yet you have given me status as your son/daughter through faith in Jesus, your true Son. Jesus, I deserved to be punished like Barabbas, yet you stepped in and took my punishment and delivered me from ultimate death. Holy Spirit, how many times have I lied, hated, and rebelled against you, and yet you patiently, persistently lead me into all truth, and transform me to be like Jesus, by your work in me. And you testify within me that I belong to God. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Holy Saturday, April 11
Gospel Reading: Matthew 27:57-66 >>
by Ben Davis
Christians are the only people on earth who believe that death is a sign of victory. No other person would dare to make such a bold, if not foolish, claim about something so ominous. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise,” as St. Paul rightly says.
Christians can say such things with a straight face because we know that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As a real, fleshy person Jesus lived as any one of us do today. He walked through every stage of life and experienced every range of human emotion. He even suffered death. Holy Saturday is about death. As the Gospel of Matthew tells us, Joseph of Arimathe’a took Jesus’ lifeless body and “wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb. . .” (27:59).
Paradoxically, Holy Saturday is also about the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. Two places in the New Testament speak of Christ’s descent into the bowels of death.
– “When he [Jesus] ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive,” after having first “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. 4:8-9).
– Jesus “went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” and then went “into heaven and is at the right hand of God” (1 Peter 3:18-22).
It is the character of God revealed in Christ to take the menacing, definite, all-consuming power of death and transform it from the inside out. Neither death nor hell has been left untouched by the redeeming hand of God. The mystery of Holy Saturday is that God walked among the dead and proclaimed to them the hope of the gospel.
You see, God’s rescue operation was to reclaim every square inch of creation for Himself. That meant Christ had to be dragged down to the pit of death, not only to liberate its captives, but to take its prison doors right off the hinges. He left them next to the stone after it was rolled away.
Christians journey through life backwards. In baptism we start by dying with Christ and then we move toward our final destination, which is participating in Christ’s resurrection life. The mystery of Holy Saturday quickens our Christian imagination. It trains our eyes to see the sheer victory of Christ in all things – even death.
Father, nothing is beyond your reach. Nothing is too broken for you to fix. No despair is so grave that you cannot breathe the fresh air of hope back into its lungs. Even death could not escape the grasp of your redemption. Good Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit give us the eyes to see where you are in Christ – among the living and among the dead. Amen.
Easter Sunday, April 12
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:1-12 >>
by Christopher A. Majors, DDS, MAT
The announcement has long been on public record: Christ is risen! Therefore, through Christ’s resurrected life, we are invited to step into the fellowship of the Trinity. We are invited to make a pilgrimage in knowing and becoming the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11:25, Jn 17:3). Luke’s gospel affirms the stone is rolled away and two other-than-human persons show up in dazzling apparel announcing the gospel: “Jesus is not dead but living; he has been raised!” (vv.4-5). 1 Indeed, He is risen! This is very good news.
Have you ever heard of the eighth day? Genesis tells us that God created in six days and rested on the seventh. The eighth day is the beginning of new creation. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, brought the new creation into the old by rising from the dead on the first day of the week (Lk 24.1). Jesus’ resurrection is the very core of the message preached by his own disciples. To preach the gospel is to preach the resurrection.2 On the eighth day Jesus overturns the natural order of sin and death for the sake of restoring the entire cosmos—a restoration which includes us. To be sure, this is not about becoming better versions of ourselves. Rather, Christians are to become what C.S. Lewis calls “a little Christ”. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.3
Because Christ lives, we can face tomorrow. “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus” (1 Pet 1:3-4). Living hope is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking. Hope is a continual looking forward to the eternal world.4 Going forward, we lean into the power of the Holy Spirt and practice resurrection.5 We no longer look back, for the horizon of God’s future is right before us in the resurrection of Christ. Christ’s future is now our future (1 Cor. 15).6
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore! Amen. 7
1 David L. Balch, Commentary on the Bible; Ed. James D.G. Dunn, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.
2 C.S. Lewis, Miracles (1947; San Francisco: HarperOne, 2015), 234.
3 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.177. HarperOne; New York, NY. 1980
4 Ibid, 134.
5 Ben Davis, Holy Week Reader, Introduction; Eastminster: 2020.
7 Book of Common Prayer, Prayer for Easter Sunday; 1979.
By Ben Davis
The Church Calendar gives us a curriculum for discipleship. Through it Christians learn to inhabit the story of Scripture and live as students in the Way of Jesus.
As the Introduction to this Reader suggested, Christians don’t merely recall past events in Jesus’ life; we perform them. In each season of time the story of Jesus becomes the curriculum on which we learn to live as his students. Calvin appropriately called the Church the “School of Christ.” He understood that to be a good student of Jesus – to live the story of Jesus well – required a community of fellow apprentices who were learning to love God and neighbor together.
We live in a disorienting time, to be sure. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that since we are not able to gather within the four walls of our building we are not Eastminster Church. The School of Christ is still in session. We are still students of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ. And as Holy Week and Easter remind us, we still inhabit a story that transcends any given moment in time – even the strange time of COVID-19.
This Holy Week/Easter Reader has provided us with timely reflections on what it means to be a student of Jesus. They have refocused our gaze on the story of Jesus as he journeys to the cross. And, most importantly, they have instructed us how to be skilled practitioners of Christ’s resurrection.
The Son has risen on the Eighth Day and we are now living in His light.
Soli Deo Gloria!
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