Easter is a very special time for Christians – during this period we remember events that are central and unique to the Christian faith. Events that trigger responses that range from celebration and joy to horror and shock. This year we are particularly thinking about how “It was necessary” for Jesus to die on the cross. It was only because of His death that we might come to know God and have relationship with Him.
The period up to Easter is called Lent, while the week that precedes Easter is often called Holy Week. There are a services and events within the Parish through this period to help us remember what happened and to consider what our response should be to these events.
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week. It gets its name from the way people greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21 v 8 NIV UK)
Jesus was greeted with praise and palm branches were spread before Him. The prophecy given by Zechariah, that Israel’s king would come on a donkey, was fulfilled!
A large proportion of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John cover the events and Jesus’s teaching of this week. On the Monday Jesus cleared the Temple of the traders and money lenders. We are told that on the Tuesday the Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with loaded questions, but that Jesus evaded their traps and exposed their lack of understanding. Later that day Jesus talked about the future, including the destruction of the Temple that happened 70 years later.
On the Thursday the events of the week rapidly draw to their conclusion. Jesus prepares His disciples and Himself for His death as they share the Passover Meal together. Here Jesus showed how He was a servant king as He washed His disciples’ feet. During the meal He instigated what we now call Holy Communion.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Matthew 26 v 26-28 NIV UK)
After the meals Jesus and all the disciples except Judas went to Gethsemane where Jesus, knowing what lay ahead for Him, prayed in great torment.
This day is now called Maundy Thursday and we have a special service to remember the events.
While they are at Gethsemane, on the Thursday night / Friday morning, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Temple guard. His disciples flee; even though they had thought they would never leave Him (Peter later denies even knowing Him!). Jesus is subjected to false trials, condemnation, beating and mockery and the people of Jerusalem who had welcomed Him the previous Sunday now call for His death.
Jesus carries His cross to “the place of the skull” where He is crucified by the Roman soldiers. Crucifixion was a slow, painful death.
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23 v 34 NIV UK)
His death was so remarkable one of the soldiers said:
“Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27 v 54 NIV UK)
This day is now known as “Good Friday”. Calling it “good” seems strange when there was so much cruelty, pain and suffering inflected on an innocent man. There are a number of theories as to how this name came about – some say it is a corruption of “God’s Friday”, others think it is good in the sense of being “holy” or special to God while others trace it back to referring to a day on which religious observance is held (there is also a “Good Wednesday”!). Whatever the origins of the name, as Christians we know that however horrible the events of Good Friday were, the results of Jesus’s actions were good for us. Paul wrote to the Colossians:
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1 v 21-22 NIV UK)
For the first time, this year there will be a service at Holy Rood Church at 10am. This service will be suitable for the all ages, whether child or rather older! At 11am Stubbington churches join together on Good Friday morning for an Act of Witness on the Green, all are welcome to join us for this act of witness. In the afternoon there is a service of meditation and reflection at St. Edmunds.
Before night on the Friday the guards confirmed Jesus was dead and then Jesus’s body was taken and laid in an unused tomb which was closed with a stone. It seemed His life was over and everything people had hoped for from Him had come to nothing.
But on the Sunday morning the women went to the tomb to anoint the body only to find the tomb open and the body, but not the grave-clothes, gone! Then they saw Jesus alive! Although there was scepticism about the reports during the day others including Mary, Peter, Cleopas and the disciples, except Thomas, saw the risen Jesus that day. Over the following weeks many others saw Jesus and people began to realise Jesus was the Messiah.
Two thousand years later we have an advantage over those who were with Jesus that first Easter week – we know the ending – we know that Jesus was raised from the dead! We know that we can have a restored relationship with God; Jesus paid the cost to allow that to happen and showed that death had been defeated by his resurrection. The pain and suffering of the cross “was necessary”.
There are services throughout Holy Week to help us reflect and meditate on the events of the week and bring our worship and prayers to God. On Easter Day there is the opportunity to meet on the beach at sunrise to worship the risen Jesus. Later in the morning there is an all age service in Holy Rood at 9:30am. At St.Edmund’s there is a special presentation of The Easter Story, in words and music, with the St Edmund Singers. See the events listing for more details.