Holy Week Is Here: What Christians and All Faithful Need to Know


“I hear this one often, but that’s really not the case at all,” notes author J. Warner Wallace. “For example, Jesus uses the name “I Am,” which is really reserved for God, the Father, and when he does this in John 8:59, the people take up stones to throw at Jesus.” In other words, the crowd understood Jesus as saying, ‘I am God.’ “He always assumes the identity of God even when he begins a proclamation,” the detective adds. “It was very clear that Jesus claimed to be God.”

Holy Week Is Here: What Christians and All Faithful Need to Know

At the heart of this blessed period on the calendar is the pascal mystery of Jesus Christ

Spring cleaning, cherry blossom festivals, vacation travels and so much more seem to be the focus for many people during this time of year.

But for devout Christians, Holy Week has a unique significance.

It marks the pascal mystery of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday, Holy Week began with Our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, with the masses praising him and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).

Yet sadly, many of the onlookers in this crowd would later be saying, “Crucify him, Crucify him!” when Pontius Pilate presented Jesus for judgment.

The takeaway for Christians. All good deeds are inspired by God and brought to fruition by the power of His grace, although our humble collaboration is certainly needed. God is the protagonist.

Jesus also teaches us not to trust too much or be overly dependent on public opinion — for as He learned, that can turn against even the most innocent and noble of individuals. The only totally honest and lasting opinion that truly matters is God’s.

On Holy Thursday, Jesus gathered with His beloved disciples for the Last Supper, leaving an example of tremendous humility through the washing of His disciples’ feet and making present His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, in an unbloody manner, through the offering of His body and blood in the form of bread and wine.

The takeaway. Jesus came to serve, and He assumed the role of slave by washing and drying the feet of each one of His disciples. He also instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist by giving this power to His disciples to consecrate the bread and wine into His body and blood.

Jesus is fully present in every Catholic church around the world, becoming present during the moment of consecration in the Mass and within the confines of the tabernacle in the form of the consecrated Host. He is fully present, and He patiently waits and hopes for us to arrive for a heartfelt visit.

On Good Friday, after enduring a long night of trials and torture and three hours of agony and intense suffering on the cross — both moral (for carrying the weight of the sins of all humanity) and physical — Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19: 30).

The takeaway. Jesus teaches us the value of suffering with nobility and generosity.

In spite of the physical pain He endured and the radical injustice of His sentence, Christ finds the magnanimity to forgive all of His accusers — even Judas who betrayed him, though he did not accept the forgiveness of Jesus. He pardons the good thief, promising him paradise that same day, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Blessed Mother, to St. John and all future disciples who are willing to follow in His footsteps.

Whatever one’s current state of suffering, this priest encourages all to hold a crucifix in your hands, look at it closely, and try to understand that He endured this out of love for all of us.

This brings us to Good Saturday and Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday was a day of holy expectation. The stone by the tomb was firmly sealed, the guards had been placed to prevent the disciples or anyone else from stealing the body … but then Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, arrived at the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint the body.

“When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16: 4-6).

He stands each day at the door of our hearts, gently knocking, even begging for us to invite Him into our lives.

The takeaway: The mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdalen, and the apostles in the upper room all saw the Risen Christ.

Jesus is alive!

He is alive and well — and He wants to walk with all of us and be at the center of our lives.

The greatest gift of being Christian is having Jesus as someone real and available — someone who desperately wants to accompany us on our life’s journey. He stands each day at the door of our hearts, gently knocking, even begging for us to invite Him into our lives.

His resurrection is also a sign of our future resurrection — if we, too, walk in these footsteps and imitate His example of total self giving and dedication the Father’s will: “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).


A Tale of Two Thieves

Two criminals were crucified with Jesus on Good Friday. They hung in naked shame and agony on cruel crosses for approximately six hours. Both blasphemed Jesus at first, spewing vicious insults His way. Their names were not recorded. Ultimately, one was saved; the other was lost. One was forgiven; the other was condemned. One was transported to paradise; the other was taken to perdition. One’s heart was hardened with hate; the other’s was melted by love. One cursed God with his dying breath; the other whispered a soul-saving prayer.

What made the difference? What caused the believing thief to change his mind about Christ? One plausible explanation is that when he saw Jesus forgive His own murderers, it made a profound impression on him. His eyes were opened and he realized that this was no ordinary man. He’d never witnessed such an extreme expression of love. In one of His seven recorded statements from the cross, Jesus prayed:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do” (Lk. 23:34).

Included in that prayer were not only the religious leaders who conspired to His death, the Jews who consented to it, and the Romans who executed it, but every fallen man whose sin made the cross necessary. Since our sins helped put Jesus on the cross, we too were the enemies He forgave and for whom He died. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said:T

“Let us go to Calvary to learn how we may be forgiven. And then let us linger there to learn how to forgive.”

The cursing crook was so moved by Jesus’ benevolence, it ignited faith in his heart that he too could be saved. He offered a simple, sincere, nine-word prayer that changed his eternal destiny:

“Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.” (Lk. 23:42).

Author Max Lucado observes:

“The only thing more absurd than his request was that it was granted . . . He who deserved hell got heaven.”

The only thing that thief and Jesus had in common was their method of execution. One was a common criminal; the other was the just Judge of all the earth. One was as guilty as sin; the other was the only innocent man to ever live. To the thief’s request to be remembered, Jesus replied:

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43).

That thief, though crucified on earth for his crimes, now walks a free man in heaven due to the power of forgiveness. What Jesus said to that thief is a message of hope to us all. If Jesus forgave his own murderers, He will forgive us. If Jesus saved a desperate, dying thief, He will save us too. Friend, there is no sin too big for the blood of Jesus and no failure too great for the grace of God to overcome.

The Gospel account of the thief’s redemption answers the question, is there such a thing as death-bed repentance? Absolutely! Do I recommend it? Absolutely not! Why give God the crumbs of your life instead of the cream? Why burn the candle of your life for yourself and blow the smoke in God’s face? Yes, God will save any person who prays with sincere repentance and faith, even up to their last breath. But who is to say if a person takes that risk that they will have such an opportunity? Such a procrastinator might die suddenly in an eternally lost condition. That’s why the Bible emphatically states:

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

Friend, don’t gamble with your soul. Why roll the dice on eternity? Call on God now, while He is dealing with you. He will save your soul and radically change your life.

On October 8, 1871, D. L. Moody preached a sermon entitled “What Shall I Do with Jesus?” As he concluded, he asked his congregation, the largest church in Chicago at the time, to take a week to consider this question and return the next Sunday to make their decision. By his own admission, Moody called it the biggest blunder he ever made in his ministry. That same day the Great Chicago Fire roared through the city, killing over 300 people, destroying over 1,000 buildings, including Moody’s church, and leaving thousands homeless. Some of the people who attended his service that day were among the dead. Afterward he reflected, “What a mistake! Since then I never have dared give an audience a week to think about their salvation . . . now is the accepted time.” He went on to say that he would have given his right arm to be able to do it over again.

If the redeemed thief could talk to us today, he’d probably say, “Don’t wait until the last day of your life to receive salvation.” It’s far better to serve God all along and give Him your best years, not your leftover last days. And, as one author noted, while “God guarantees forgiveness for repentance, he doesn’t guarantee tomorrow for our procrastination.” Two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One is now glorified with Him. We can share that same glorious fate. We don’t have to die lost in our sins. Our decisions determine our destiny. Destiny is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice! The dying thief changed his eternal destiny by making the right choice. We can too. Isn’t it amazing how much we learn from a thief?

Ben Godwin is the author of four books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. To read more articles, visit his website at bengodwin.org and take advantage of his 4-book bundle for $25.00.