The run up to Easter has 4 important dates. You’ve probably heard of them, but do you know what they are underneath the name?
Palm Sunday: April 13, 2014
Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a lowly colt. This normally mundane event took on a supernatural significance as Jesus had developed such a following that the people lined the streets, tossing palm fronds on the ground ahead of him (Matthew 21: 7-8, Mark 11:7-8, Luke 19:35-36, John 12:12-13). He had taught with such authority, healed with such power and acted with such humility that his journey into this major city was both anticipated and welcomed. The traditional Jewish leaders, as well as the Romans, were beside themselves with frustration at this supposed “King of Kings.” This event occurred one week before His Resurrection.
Maundy Thursday: April 17, 2014
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus shared supper with his disciples and washed their dirty feet in an act of humble service. As he did this, he instructed them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15). He left them with a mandate to serve others. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word for “mandate” (mandatum). With His incarnate time running out, he made service to others one of his most important lessons of all. He was later betrayed by Judas and captured by Romans while in the garden praying to His Heavenly Father. These events occurred the night before his crucifixion.
Good Friday: April 18, 2014
The Jewish Sabbath is traditionally the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. Except this week, which has a Passover “high Sabbath.” This particularly week, on the day before the Sabbath (John 19:31), Jesus was accused of being a troublemaker to the Romans and a religious heretic to the Jews. He was tried by Pilate, beaten by the soldiers, flogged by the torturers and crucified high on a cross for all to see. This was the day that a sinless man, doing the will of the Heavenly Father, gave of Himself freely so that humanity could refer all future sacrifices to that one event. Traditionally, Jews sacrificed a spotless lamb as atonement for recent sins. Jesus became that “lamb” for everyone forevermore, which is why Christians refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, slain for us. Late in that same day, they took his dead body down and placed it in Joseph of Aramathea’s tomb so the body would not still be there on the Sabbath. These events occurred on the day before the Passover “high Sabbath”, so technically we observe these events a day late.
Easter Sunday: April 20, 2014
Early Sunday morning (literally, “the first day of the week”, John 20:1) Mary Magdelene went to the tomb where Jesus was laid and He was gone. When she reported it to the disciples, they remembered that He said he would be put in the ground for three days and rise again. While this Resurrection event was not a mandated observance, Christians recognize it as the pivotal event of their faith, and the most critical foundation thereof. Without the Resurrection, there is merely death without victory — sin without salvation. For Christians, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah, who was “broken for our sins” and by whose “wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). While we call it Easter today, named for the dawn (sun rises in the east) and similar to the Anglo-Saxon pagan sunrise goddess Eostre, Paul wrote to the Corinthians and referred to Christ and the Resurrection with the term “pascha”, from the Hebrew word “pesach” meaning Passover. Passover was the event in Exodus where the blood of the first-born lamb was put above and to the sides of the door in order to denote obedience to God.
Perhaps the lamb is a more appropriate symbol of Easter than a bunny or an egg.