By David R. Ferguson
In July of 1969, after Apollo 11 put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon, then President Nixon proclaimed to the astronauts, “This is the greatest week in the history of the world since Creation….” Although it was indeed a truly inspiring, remarkable achievement, the events of that July week some 37 plus years ago pale in comparison to the truly greatest week in the history of the world since Creation. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the week we have come to know as the “Holy Week.” The Holy Week was the week in which the Jews observed Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits.
But what made this particular Holy Week so special was that it was the very same week in which Jesus arrived triumphantly in Jerusalem riding on the back of a colt of a donkey as the adoring crowds in Jerusalem lauded Him as their rightful King. That same week, however, Jesus was later betrayed with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver by one of His own chosen Apostles, Judas Iscariot, and He then underwent several mock trials. The King of the Jews (and the world!) was handed over to the Roman authorities where Pilate sentenced Jesus to die upon a Cross, in spite of KNOWING that Jesus was not guilty of committing any crime worthy of death!
But even before this sentence was carried out Jesus was ridiculed, spat upon, scourged, beaten, paraded in mockery in purple garments as a royal personage while the soldiers laughed at Him. To make things worse they fashioned a crown of thorns together and thrust it upon His head, beat Him some more, and yanked tufts of His beard out by the roots.
After suffering through all of this pain and humiliation, Jesus was further forced to endure carrying His own Cross throughout the city of Jerusalem in front of the jeering crowds who had chosen to have a murdering insurrectionist by the name of Barabbas released and set free, instead of innocent Jesus. He carried that Cross as far as His strength would endure before He stumbled and fell to the street beneath the weight of its load, whereby the soldiers compelled a man from Cyrene by the name of Simon to carry that Cross the rest of the way for Him. Jesus suffered Himself to be executed by crucifixion at the cruel hands of sinful man, and He allowed them to drive those thick, iron nails through the flesh of His hands and His feet, whereby He could be suspended between Heaven and Earth.
After undergoing this unbearable pain and humiliation in front of His own mother and dearest friend for six hours, Jesus finally gave up His Spirit, and His body died, just at the precise moment the Passover Lamb was being sacrificed in the nearby Temple. The curtain of the veil in the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom. All was finished, just as He had declared from that Cross in the darkness that crept upon the face of the Earth. His body was dead – a Roman soldier made sure of it by piercing the side of Jesus with his sword, causing blood and water to flow from the wound. Yes, the body of Jesus was dead, but His Spirit lived on, and He took with Him one of the repentant thieves who saw the error of his ways, and he asked the Lord to forgive him and remember him when He came into His Kingdom. Jesus heard the man’s prayers, and Jesus promised that He would do just that, saying to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43b).
Jesus was hastily taken down and removed from His Cross, and His body was placed inside a new tomb which belonged to a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who, along with Nicodemus, became a disciple of Jesus Christ. At the urgent entreaty of the enemies of Jesus who had Him crucified, Pilate had the tomb sealed and a huge stone rolled in front of it. He also ordered armed Roman soldiers to stand guard outside the tomb to prevent anyone from tampering with the remains of Jesus.
But no seal was strong enough, no stone too huge, and no amount of Roman soldiers would keep the Son of God from emerging ALIVE from that tomb, the firstfruits of the resurrection! Jesus ultimately and completely defeated both Death and Satan, and He shall always emerge victorious! The bonds of Death have been broken! By rising from the dead after spending three days and three nights in the grave, Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits, just as He Himself had prophesied: “…for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth” (Matthew 12:40 [NASB]).
Truly no week can compare to this week, for without these great things happening then which culminated in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then no one would have the opportunity for salvation. As the Hebrews writer declares, “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 [NASB]. Thank you, Lord, for Your great sacrifice, and for rising triumphantly over Death!
- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lakelandchurchofchrist/ or firstname.lastname@example.org