Palm Sunday kicks off Holy Week, the most important week of remembrance in the church calendar. During this week, we remember the final week of Jesus’s life, culminating in his death and resurrection. On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem in kingly grandeur. Chanting words from a well-known Passover psalm, the people cried out, “Hosanna! Save us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps. 118:25-26).
Jesus and his disciples would sing these songs together during Holy Week, as Jews had done for centuries leading up to the celebration of Passover. In fact, after the last supper and on their way to the Mount of Olives, Matthew tells us they sang a hymn together (Matt. 26:30). I had always wondered what that hymn was. Wouldn’t it be cool to know what Jesus and the disciples sang together on the night that Jesus was betrayed? What words were ringing in his ears as he prayed to God in the garden? What Scripture was on his mind when he was taken for execution?
We know from the cross what Scriptures Jesus was meditating on; the opening line of Psalm 22 was among his final words. But we know even more than that. Because we know what the Jews sang on their way to the temple (Psalms 120-134) and the songs they sang for Passover (Psalms 113-118), we can join them this week in their worship.
Take a few minutes to read through these psalms, especially Psalm 118, this week. Think about how fitting - and how hopeful! - these words are for Holy Week.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
His steadfast love endures forever!”
“Out of my distress, I called on the Lord;
The Lord answered and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”
“The Lord is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.”
“You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
You are my God; I will extol you.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
For his steadfast love endures forever!”
However you do it, find some extra time this week to think, pray, and meditate on Christ’s death and resurrection. This is the central component of our faith, that Christ died for us and was raised from the dead. He lives, now and forever, and we live in him! Yesterday, I started the Easter Explained reading plan published by Spoken Gospel (an OKC group!). Each day, they explain what happened, what Jesus was doing, and how everything led up to the resurrection.
Though we don’t know everything Jesus did during this final week, we do have a few emphases that the church has celebrated throughout history:
Palm Sunday - Jesus rides into Jerusalem to shouts of, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Holy Monday - Jesus goes into the temple and chases out the money changers.
Maundy Thursday - Jesus celebrates the last supper, the Passover feast, with his disciples. After the meal, Jesus and the disciples go to the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Good Friday - After a trial based on false charges, Jesus is convicted by the Sanhedrin and given over to Pontius Pilate. Even though Pilate did not want to put Jesus to death, the chants of the crowd were overwhelming. Jesus was brutally beaten and taken away to be crucified. By 3pm in the afternoon, Jesus breathed his last. Joseph of Arimathea came and buried the body in his own tomb before dusk, just in time for the Sabbath.
Easter Sunday - On Easter morning, a group of women came to the tomb and found it empty. An angel met them there and said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!”
Enjoy this week. Gather, celebrate, get alone, fight for some time alone with God for the immeasurable gift of his son. Happy Holy Week!
Dr. Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak and the Senior Pastor of Carlton Landing Community Church in Oklahoma.