Who is Jesus? Easter is all about the person and work of Jesus. Below is the calendar of what happened in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. Below are calendar events of Jesus’ life during passion week:
|Sunday||Jesus Enters Jerusalem honor.|
|Monday||Jesus returns and cleanses the Temple Jesus curses the fig tree.|
|Tuesday||Jesus debates with Religious leaders Jesus prophesies about the destruction of Jerusalem and His 2nd Coming.|
|Wednesday||Jesus is betrayed by Judas. Jesus stays with friends at Bethany.|
|Thursday||Jesus returns to Jerusalem and celebrates the Passover with His disciples. Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is arrested and led away to be tried by the Leaders. All the Disciples run for their lives.|
|Friday||Trials 1-3 from Midnight to 6:30am. Peter denies Christ. (Religious) Trials 4-6 from 6:30-9am. (Legal) Christ is crucified at 9am-3pm. Christ is buried by 5pm.|
|Saturday||The leaders return to the tomb and seal it with Rome’s power and guard.|
|Sunday||Christ is raised from the dead. Christ meets Mary first. Christ encounters the disciples. Christ walks on the road of Emmaus.|
These are the dates of the religious holidays for the traditional church calendar:
- Ash Wednesday is Feb 17th and starts the period of Lent
- Palm Sunday is March 28th
- Good Friday is April 2nd
- Resurrection Sunday (Easter) in the Western Church is on April 4th
- Ascension Day is April 11th
- Pentecost Sunday is May 23rd
What do these days represent? Here is a brief explanation so that you can understand why these dates are held with certain honor.
Ash Wednesday and Lent- What is it? Why is it?
The highlight of the year for Christians is Easter, the day when our Lord rose from the dead. Lent was set by the early church in the sixth century, during the time of Pope Gregory the Great as a time of 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Resurrection day. Why 40 days? Because, Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Lent, then, is our time of fasting, prayer, overcoming temptation and repentance. Today in the Western church, Lent starts six and a half weeks before Resurrection day. This provides a full 40 days without including Sundays. In the Eastern Church Lent begins 8 weeks before Resurrection day. This is because the Eastern Church excludes Saturday and Sunday from the fasting of 40-day period of Lent.
Lent is not required anywhere in the scriptures, but it has been a custom. In many languages, the word “Lent” actually means “fast.” This is where the custom of giving up something for Lent originated. Lent always begins on a Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday. The name Ash Wednesday is due to ashes being a symbol for repentance. Early Christians would put ashes from palm leaves on their foreheads in the shape of a cross on this day to approach the altar in prayer.
The Focus of Lent Was Always Threefold:
1. It was a time to prepare new converts for baptism through
intensive class instruction.
2. It was a time for long-standing Christians to review their lives
and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ.
3. It was a time for backsliders to be restored to the faith.
(French for “Fat Tuesday”) is a celebration, sometimes called “Carnival,” practiced around the world, on the Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday. It was designed as a way to “get it all out” before the sacrifices of Lent began. New Orleans is the focal point of Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S.
The earliest observance of Palm Sunday was in the fourth century. In the Christian church, the entire week before Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection is considered holy and is observed in the church on a daily basis. On the Sunday before His resurrection, Jesus rode victoriously into Jerusalem. He rode on the back of a donkey, as a king would come into a foreign land in peace. He was honored as the king of the Jews by the cheers of the crowd of over 200,000 worshippers. They laid down palm branches in reverence of His kingship (Mathew 21:8-9 records this). A Palm Sunday procession complete with palm branches is first mentioned in the writings of Etheria the Spanish nun. The church did not have a regular Palm Sunday procession until late in the eleventh century.
As the church custom of Palm Sunday and the processions grew in number, countries that did not have palm trees, replaced the tree branches with trees available to them. Palm Sunday became known as Blossom Sunday, Willow Bough Sunday, Olive Sunday, and any branch will do as the English recognized the day. The palm leaves were burnt and the ashes were saved. On the following year’s Ash Wednesday the ashes were placed on the foreheads of the Christian recipients.
Good Friday is the day that the church recalls the death of Jesus on the cross. It is as bitter sweet as the churches observance of communion. It is a day of remembrance of the humble suffering and love of our Lord for us on the cross. It is also a time of remembrance of our Heavenly Fathers love in desiring to establish a covenant relationship with us by the death of His Son. Many churches have a candlelight service on Good Friday evening. The origin of the word “good” has been lost. Some claim that it is a corruption of “God” and that the early Christians called this day “God’s Friday”. Others claim that “good” refers to the blessings of humanity that Christians believe arose as a result of Jesus’ execution.
The Christian Easter holy day commemorates the resurrection of Christ and as such is considered the most holy and sacred of all Christian holy days. Up until the second century it was only a Saxon festival to the pagan god of spring and offspring known as Eastre. This transformation from a robust Saxon festival of Eastre into a solemn Christian service is an example of the authority of the early Christian church.
During the second century, missionaries of Christ (while being spread across the Teutonic tribes north of Rome) came across numerous customs and heathen religious observances. When possible, the missionaries quietly and cunningly attempted to transform pagan customs of tradition into ceremonies harmonious with Christian doctrine. This often put a stop to Christian persecution because of having a Christian celebration when no one else was celebrating caused the Christians to stand out like sore thumbs and they would become targets for martyrdom.
Baptism in the second century and early church was no informal sacrament of recent converts. Periods of up to three years of instruction and probation were often required to qualify a pagan gentile for admission to full fellowship in the church. As a symbolic custom, it became significant for baptisms to be administered only on the night before Easter so that the birth of the Christian into his new life might correspond to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The resurrection was never celebrated in the New Testament. In the King James version the word Easter is used incorrectly in Acts 12: 4, but is correctly translated as the Passover in the American Standard version of the Bible.
After Easter began to be celebrated, there arose confusion within the church on what day the church should celebrate it. The Gentile Christians wanted to celebrate Easter on Sunday (the Lord’s day). The Jewish Christian tied Easter in with the Passover and wanted to celebrate it on the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox and may fall on any day of the week. Which is the start of the Jewish 8 days of the Passover holiday. The Christian celebration of Easter is linked to the Jewish celebration of the Passover. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were observed by the ancient Israelites early in each new year. (The Jewish people followed the Persian/Babylonian calendar and started each year with the Spring Equinox circa, MAR-21) “Equinox” means “equal night;” on that date of the year, the night and day are approximately equal. The name “Passover” was derived from the actions of the Angel of Death as described in the book of Exodus. The angel “passed over” the homes of the Jews which were marked with the blood obtained from a ritual animal sacrifice. The same angel exterminated the first born son of every family whose doorway was not so marked. The day before Passover is celebrated by a Fast of the First Born and in the evening is the first Seder meal. On the first day of Passover the second Seder meal is celebrated.
In order to give definition to the church and stop divisions, the Roman emperor, Constantine initiated a council of the church Bishops in 325 AD at the town of Nicaea near Constantinople. At this council, the Easter rule became official. The Easter rule stated that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, on or after the Vernal Equinox. At this same council, the symbol of the cross became the official symbol of the Christian church.
Feast of Ascension
Ascension Day is a celebration of Jesus’ ascension up to heaven. The book of Acts records Jesus ascending to heaven 40 days after the resurrection. The church has accepted the account in Acts. The feast is celebrated on a Thursday, 39 days after Easter Sunday. Although tradition states that it was first celebrated in 68 AD, it was not formally recognized by the church until the late 3rd century.
Quotes about the Cross
The cross is where we see man at his worst and God at His best.
Today may be Friday (full of sorrow) but Sunday is a comin’.
There is not a ray of hope for man outside of the substitution of Christ on the cross. D.L. Moody
The two doctrines of Christ’s incarnation and atonement show the marvelous, inconceivable, infinite love of God to poor sinful humanity. Dr. Adolph Saphir
It is said that C.H. Spurgeon chose a text and headed straight for the cross. The Cross is the heart of Christianity. Alban Douglas
What to read to follow that last week of Jesus’ earthly life:
Monday Read: Matt 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44
Tuesday Read: Matt 21:12-25:46
Wednesday Read: Matt 26:1-16 Mark 14:1-11 John 12:1-8
Thursday Read: Matt 26:17-75
Friday Read: Matt 27, John 19