During Holy Week WOA Churches Reflect on the Cross of Jesus Christ

The last week of Jesus' life is known as Holy Week or Passion Week. It begins with Jesus' coming to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday that fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah who said: "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9) The people welcomed Jesus joyfully, taking palm branches and shouting "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the king of Israel!" (John 12:13)

But at the same time, the religious leaders of that day conspired against Jesus whom they perceived as a threat to their authority and power. John records that the "Pharisees said to one another, 'See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!'" (John 12:19)

In the following chapters, John then goes on to describe how Jesus spent his last hours with his disciples and "loved them to the end" (John 13:1b) by washing their feet like a servant and giving his last exhortations and prayer for them. Meanwhile, Judas had gone out to betray him and later found Jesus and his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane bringing with him soldiers to arrest the Lord. He is led away to the high priest, then the Roman governor and ultimately flogged, mocked and condemned to death on the cross.

After the triumphal entry to Jerusalem where people welcomed Jesus as King, there seemed to have been a sudden turn of events where he was made to suffer the most horrible torture and death. How then should believers interpret the cross, which seems the ultimate failure of this young Jewish rabbi and even a curse from God (Galatians 3:13)?

The answer is found in Isaiah's prophecy hundreds of years earlier where he described the suffering servant of God:
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:1-6)

The sin of the whole world - the arrogance, hatred, jealousy, envy and every evil thought and deed - was placed on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, so that he would carry it on our behalf, so that we would be free from guilt.

The Holy Week is the final week and culmination of the Lent Season where believers reflect on the path that Jesus took, the path of loneliness, suffering and death on the cross. It is the time to examine our hearts and remember the price that the Lord paid because of our sin, and then with a grateful heart become true followers of Christ who carry out his command to take up our cross daily and help carry other people's burdens like Jesus bore ours.

The deeper we understand the suffering of the cross on Good Friday, the deeper we will also experience the joy of resurrection on Easter Sunday.