Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday—The Other Holy Days!
Easter Weekend is so dramatic. It began on Maundy Thursday with the footwashing, special sacrament of the body and blood, the prayer in the garden and the arrest. On the Good Friday came the heinous acts of violence and torture. Then Holy Saturday brought a Sabbath rest, and of course the best day of all Easter Sunday. But what happened on the other holy days of Holy Week? These days Jesus taught in the Temple or on the Mount of Olives where He spent the nights.
Jesus seems to set the tone of Holy Week off right by teaching the disciples more about the power of prayer. It is fitting that the object lessons Jesus taught on Monday were both about prayer. You will notice that this week begins with a focus on prayer and Jesus' last words from the cross are a prayer quoted from the Psalms. The events of Holy Monday cause us to reflect on the urgency and priority that Jesus urges us to recognize about prayer.
On Monday, Jesus cleared the temple. Here we have an image of Jesus so far from the forgiving, graceful, wise and witty teacher we have witnessed. What makes Jesus angry?—when men distort the way to prayer. The temple was full of money changers, venders of all kinds and religious leaders profiting from the pockets of eager worshippers. He overturned the tables and drove out anyone trying to bring merchandise into the Temple. His rationale for this violent behavior—scripture. He quoted Isaiah 56:7, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers (Mark 11:17).
The other event slated on Monday was when Jesus explained why the fig tree withered. The fig tree was full of leaves, but no fruit. It offered nothing to satisfy Jesus' hunger. Jesus is hungry to feast on the fruit of your life. He uses the fig tree to demonstrate what happens when there is no fruit, only leaves. In Mark 11:22-25 Jesus summarizes the essentials of our prayer lives:
Have faith in God, Jesus answered. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, God, throw yourself in to the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
These are good thoughts for us this Holy Week. Is your heart a house of prayer? Are there money changers, merchants or religious teachers that rob you of a pure heart of prayer? Make time for prayer this week. Believe and don't doubt. Forgive anyone who has offended you and receive fully your forgiveness from God. What are you praying about this week? May I suggest that you ask God to bring one person across your path with whom you can share this great Easter message and the reason for your hope?
Monday in Holy Week
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Bonus Tea Time for Your Soul Lenten Section:
Tuesday, March 18
I’m sure it didn’t feel very holy to those around Christ on Tuesday. The spirit of anger and resentment toward Jesus was palpable. The Religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus before the events of yesterday—the cleansing of the temple—are now fanatical in their obsession to bring an end to Him. Knowing their profound hatred and rejection did not stop Jesus from reaching out to them. He walked right into the place where they would be—The Temple—and taught lessons especially relevant to them. Remember Jesus knows this is His last Tuesday on earth as the Word made flesh. Still, He chooses to go to the people who reject Him and talk specifically to them. Here you see a picture of the Good Shepherd who always goes out of His way to find the Lost. I’ve got to believe that someone heard Him and recognized Him and that His efforts to reach the lost religious people were not in vain.
He taught in the temple on Tuesday and Wednesday. He exposed their calloused hearts prophesied in Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10. There is no doubt that these prophesies were written about them: six times Jesus calls them hypocrites, five times He calls them blind, five times He denounces them and one time He prophecies their ruin. He taught the Parable of the Tenants in which the Land Owner rents a vineyard to tenants who beat the servants he sends to them and eventually kills the Land Owner’s son. The Religious leaders knew full well that this parable was about them. And still they rejected Him.
Foolishly the Religious leaders team together with questions hoping to prompt Jesus to commit a crime. Their plans fail as they are left speechless by His perceptive responses. Yet, because of their questions we have beautiful teaching such as: The Greatest Commandment, Authority and Taxes, No Marriage at the Resurrection, and the Seven Woes of Hypocrisy. Jesus tells the parable about Two Sons Working in the Vineyard. While in the temple He pointed out the widow’s offering to the disciples, and told them The Signs of the End of the Age and how the temple will not be there forever.
On Holy Tuesday it seems fitting to check our own calloused hearts. We can sit in judgment of the Pharisees, but are we hard hearted towards Jesus’ love ourselves? It’s something to think about as you prepare your heart for Easter.
Tuesday in Holy Week
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Wednesday, March 19
Each day of Holy Week Jesus would come into Jerusalem teach in the temple, then retire to the Mount of Olives where he continued to teach those eager to understand themselves, God and how to live in this world.
Jesus’ message to His followers was very different than what He shared with the Pharisees. He mainly spoke to them about being prepared for His return. He didn’t go into the gory details about the imminent events of the next three days—His arrest, crucifixion and burial. He didn’t even spend most of His time preparing them for the third day—His Resurrection from the Dead!
Those events, so familiar to us, perhaps needed to be experienced by them first before their significance could fully be grasped.
Rather, Jesus used these last moments of face to face ministry and interaction with His followers to prepare them to carry out their part of God’s plan for the redemption of the world. He was handing off the baton to them and now us. He made it very clear that our job is to share the Gospel and to live our lives ready for His return.
He tells us to live like the wise servants in the Parable of the Talents, using whatever God has given us—whether great of small—to further multiply His Kingdom. He expects these to be discovered and used not buried and forgotten.
He taught the Parable of the 10 Virgins, 5 were ready with enough oil to burn their lamps until the Bridegroom came while 5 were not ready to meet the bridegroom because they did not have oil in their lamps. Oil represents the Holy Spirit in Scripture.
He gave them the sign of the saved in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats which is feeding, clothing and giving to those in need. Jesus’ true followers will be His hands and feet to meet the needs of others. When we serve others in this way, Jesus tells us that we are truly serving Christ Himself.
Jesus gave a few details about the Signs of the End of the Age and let us in on the knowledge that even He does not know the day of His return. He doesn’t need to know that specific day. The only One who knows the exact day it will take place is God. Jesus is content with “the unknowing” and we should be too.
Jesus’ second coming marks our final freedom from the effects of sin. It should play a predominant place in our thoughts each day. One twentieth of the New Testament speaks about His return. There are over three hundred references to His second coming in the Bible. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books speak about His return.
As you prepare your heart for Easter ask yourself: “Am I preparing my heart for His return? How do you live that reveals that you are preparing to meet Jesus? How have you used the gifts He has given you?
Wednesday in Holy Week
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
March 19, Feast of Saint Joseph
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to our commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How Do You Believe?
Maundy Thursday, March 20
It’s so interesting to watch the followers of Christ enter into true belief in Jesus in such different ways. The ways these followers believed mirror how many of us come to believing faith. How did you believe?
The first to believe in the resurrection according to the Gospels was John. The women were the first to discover that Jesus was risen, but it was John whose heart first received the reality that Jesus had risen from the dead. After Mary ran to tell them that Jesus’ body was gone, Peter and John headed straight to the tomb. John arrived first, being younger. He stood outside the tomb and looked in, while Peter entered the tomb as soon as he arrived. They both observed the strips of linen lying there and the peculiar sight of the cloth that had been around Jesus’ head folded up separate from the linen. John 20:8 tells us, "He saw and believed." The next verse explains that he didn’t understand from the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead. John believed based on the experience of what his eyes saw. He believed that this was somehow the work of God. This was belief.
Mary Magdalene believed when Jesus called her by name. At first she thought he was a gardener and wondered if he had any knowledge about who had stolen Jesus’ body. She didn’t believe that Jesus was risen from the dead until Jesus said her name, "Mary." It was only then that she listened to His message and went quickly, as He had told her, to tell the disciples.
I can only imagine that the other disciples were beginning to believe after hearing about the belief of Mary, Peter and John. They gathered together not knowing what to do about their belief, when Jesus appeared to them and their belief was evidenced in the fact that they were overjoyed when He showed up among them.
Thomas believed only after exploring his unbelief. He did not believe on the witness of the other disciples and he was not present the week before when Jesus appeared to them. He proclaimed that he would only believe if he could find empirical evidence such as touching the holes in His hands and His side. I don’t really think he needed to actually touch the holes once Jesus appeared to him. All it took was the invitation by Jesus to touch and feel for himself and he believed.
Jesus foretold of the majority of believers, who believe without seeing. We believe because of what we read in the Bible and the witness of other believers. We continue to believe as we follow spiritual disciplines and come to know Him personally.
The most important experience anyone who is born on this earth can have is to believe in Jesus.
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Last Cry
Good Friday, March 21
We love to tell Ben (my favorite son) stories. When he got old enough he told us that he wanted a fee for any we published. As a small child he had a way of seeing things that others missed.
One day he asked us, Did you ever think about the fact that when Jesus was a baby they wrapped Him in cloth and when He died they wrapped Him in cloth?
No, we would answer. We never thought of that.
He went on to tell us, Before Jesus was born He rode on a donkey, and before He died He rode on a donkey.
I just had a Ben thought. Jesus’ first utterance on earth was most likely a cry. At least that has been my experience with my two newborns. The ooing and cooing comes later. Usually, their first sound is that distinguishable sweet wail. We love to hear that bawl because it signifies life and health.
When you consider Jesus’ crying it makes perfect sense. He left heaven to be born on this earth. What is a more fitting reaction than a flat out yowl—the kind only newborns make? I’m sure He had a good one, no matter what the famous carol, “Away in a Manger” describes. No one had a better reason to cry than baby Jesus. It seemed the only fitting reaction to the reality He was living. Yes, He was among the people He loved, doing what His Father had asked Him to do. Doing God’s will does not mean no more tears.
Now here’s the Ben thought: Did you ever think that when Jesus was born on earth the first thing He did was cry, and when the left the earth, the last thing He did was to let out a loud cry? But when we get to heaven with Him He will wipe away our tears?
Tears and crying are definitely necessary here on earth. We all need to do our share of shedding them. But sadness and tears will no longer be a part of our experience in heaven. What a thought! It just makes me happy to think that Jesus understands all about tears.
Good Friday is a day for tears. They are certainly fitting. This is the day we commemorate the deeds of the crucifixion of our loving, innocent Savior.
The absence of tears in heaven is inviting. Revelation 7:17 tells us, For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
This day of sadness is a bittersweet day. As the author of Hebrews describes, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For all the sadness this day naturally brings to mind, also open your heart to the joy that it brings as well.
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
If CSI Were Called to the Scene of the Tomb
Holy Saturday, March 22
What would a CSI agent conclude after visiting the tomb that Easter Sunday? Before interviewing witnesses, he would make a careful examination of the scene. Was a body stolen from this tomb? would be the question. Was it a crime as the Religious Leaders wanted everyone to believe?
There would be several sets of footprints to investigate. The foot work from the day before would not be completely gone. Was it only Nicodemus and Joseph who came close to the tomb with Jesus’ body? Did they carry Him? Was the only place they set Him down on the rock inside? How many helped with getting the rock in place to close the tomb? Shortly after they finished, a guard was sent to secure the tomb. After they sealed the stone to the cave, where did they keep guard? Was it directly in front of the tomb or were they a little more comfortable a short distance from a dead body? Did they sit together off to the side, passing the time appeasing the Jews on this crazy assignment? There would be Mary’s and the other women’s smaller footsteps fresh in the morning, and then John’s deep set of running footsteps that stopped right at the edge of the tomb. Peter’s fresh, larger feet would have left prints that went right into the tomb then turned and went right out. Inside the tomb there would be at least two fresh sets of men’s footsteps (Peter and John) and at least one set of women’s (Mary Magdalene).
When the Crime Scene Investigator took fingerprints, the mystery of this happening would start to arise. There would be an absence of fresh fingerprints present around the body of Jesus and none on the stone itself save for Joseph’s and Nicodemus’ fingerprints on the side that would roll the stone to close the tomb not open it. They may choose to interview Joseph of Armathea and Nicodemus to see if they had an alibi. Theirs would be the only reasonable fingerprints around the freshly hewn tomb. Would they find another set of fingerprints? Would the fingerprints of Jesus be on the linen strips that had been around His face and now were found neatly folded lying separate from the other cloth in which His body had been wrapped? Did they find other fingerprints of Jesus in the tomb? Was he reunited with His body inside that tomb that morning? Did He walk out when the stone was rolled away and the earthquake took place? Was His set of footprints found there? Did the guards see Jesus at all that morning? These answers are not recorded in Scripture, but are interesting to consider.
Next they would interview witnesses. Mary Magdalene would be their prime witness even though she was a woman and not considered reliable in their culture. The guards would tell them the story about them sleeping and waking up to find that someone had stolen the body; but could the crime scene investigator find evidence to verify their story? Would they get the sense that these guards were hiding something? After interviewing John, Peter, Nicodemus and Joseph, what would they conclude?
What about you? What have you concluded after your careful investigation of the events of Easter?
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Easter Sunday, March 23
Did Easter come and go too quickly for you? Even though I practice Lent (period of special meditation on the Passion of Christ for the 40 days before Easter) I wasn’t ready for it to end. I decided to focus on the Great Fifty Days also called Eastertide on the church calendar this year.
It has been an exciting journey. I made this decision after finding a little book called The Stations of Resurrection, written by someone who, like me, wasn’t ready to stop at Easter. It focuses on the twelve Resurrection appearances that Jesus made to His followers. It causes me to wonder at the ways God grows our faith.
During the days between Jesus’ Resurrection and His Ascension, there are so few recorded appearances by Jesus. Each time Jesus appeared and interacted with His followers, He had a specific lesson to teach. Specifically we know of 12 appearances or conspicuous absences:
- The empty Tomb—no one witnessed the actual resurrection except God and Angels (John 20:1-10)
- Guards see the stone rolled away (Matthew 28:11-15)
- Angels appear to the women (Luke 24:4-8)
- Entering tomb by Peter and John (Luke 24:1)
- Jesus appears to Mary (Mark 16:9; John 20:10-18)
- On the road to Emmaus—Midday (Luke 24:13-35)
- To His disciples—evening (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-21)
- To His disciples and Thomas, one week later (John 20:24-20)
- The miraculous catch of fish, and the reinstatement of Peter (John 21:1-25)
- The Ascension (Luke 24:50-52; Mark 16:15-20; Acts 1:6-11)
- Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:3-9)
- James, His half brother (1 Corinthians 15:7)
I find comfort in recognizing that personal appearances of Jesus on our spiritual journey are relatively rare, even for the apostles. God seems to grow our faith by showing up on occasion and never announced. Most of those fifty days the disciples and followers were waiting and trusting the mystery of God just like us. They were told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them at the Ascension, and that’s exactly what they did. There were 120 of them who were waiting and praying in the Upper Room when the world was turned upside down by the presence of the Holy Spirit now indwelling believers (Acts 2).
Eastertide teaches us that our responsibility as followers of Jesus is the same as those to whom He appeared. We are to wait and pray and follow where the Holy Spirit leads us to witness. We will each have special spiritual experiences when our understanding of Jesus is heightened. But most of the time we are just living our normal everyday lives in faith and obedience to the Word He has given us.
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Respond to Dr. Newman's article