Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent, and commemorates the day Jesus spent in the grave.  Jesus body was taken off the cross and placed in the tomb with haste as the Sabbath approached.  The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday at 6 p.m.  Early on the first day of the week (Sunday) the women came to the tomb to anoint the body and found that Jesus was not there.

To do justice to Good Friday, we must celebrate the crucifixion without giving away the resurrection.  Holy Saturday is a solemn occasion.  Catholic churches observe very limited sacraments, and the church remains stripped bare (since Mass on Thursday).  The Catholic altar remains stripped, while Orthodox churches may have the altar draped in black.  Protestants?   Protestant churches, in America any way, do little with Good Friday and nothing on Saturday that I’m aware of.  A growing trend on Good Friday seems to be cross carrying events, a parade of sorts with participants taking turns bearing an actual wooden cross, reenacting Jesus’ march to Calvary.

Again, if your Good Friday service keeps alluding to the resurrection the tone is wrong for the whole weekend.  Friday ends with Jesus in the tomb and his followers scattered and frightened.  Holy Saturday is practically a time of mourning.  Then Easter, like Christmas, means more after the waiting.

He Cannot Save Himself; a poem for Good Friday

He Cannot Save Himself

Many questions were asked of him,
though no answer was heard.
Pilate pressed him to respond,
but Jesus spoke not a word.

As prophesied by Isaiah,
like a lamb he was silent.
Which angered the crowd even more,
and they began to riot.

Governor Pilate faced the Jews,
and in order to honor custom,
told them that at their choosing,
he would release one prisoner among them.

He knew that Jesus was delivered
out of envy, malice and vice.
But the crowd choose Barabbas,
shouting “Crucify Jesus Christ.”

Pilate washed his hands before them,
saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”
The crowd said “Let his blood be upon us,
and upon our sons.”

They stripped off his own garments,
placed on him a robe and crown.
And then pretended to worship,
before him kneeling down.

They placed on his head
a crown made of thorns.
Then they spat, hit and slapped him,
and mocked him to scorn.

They compelled the man Simon
to carry his cross.
And divided his garments,
by casting lots.

They made for him a sign,
placed over his head.
“This is Jesus, King of the
Jews” the words read.

Thieves were crucified with him,
on his left and his right.
One was loud and boastful,
the other more humble, contrite.

“We are guilty of our crimes,
and deserve to die this way.”
And when Jesus saw his faith,
promised paradise that day.

“He cannot save himself” they mocked,
as his blood fell to the ground.
But they were crucifying an innocent,
in whom no guilt was found.

This was God’s plan of salvation,
established before there was time.
Each event had been prophesied,
and now fell perfectly in line.

The trial, the false witness,
his hanging on a tree;
It was all prophesied clearly
in Isaiah fifty-three.

So the words of their mocking
are actually true, you see.
He could not save himself, for
on the cross… he saved me.

Clark J. Bunch
re-posted from 2/17/2009

The Appearance of Victory

It looked like Jesus’ finest hour when he entered Jerusalem.  Our Palm Sunday service, also called Passion Sunday by some, is a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry.  The crowd shouted “Hosanna” and also “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.”  Hosanna means either save us now or more simply save now.  They waved palm branches, a symbol of victory, and spread coats on his path.  Many expected Jesus to claim the throne, and some had even tried to take him by force and place him there.  The Jewish leaders didn’t like it, but they feared the crowd more than God.  Jesus certainly looked victorious on that day.

By the end of the week, the same crowd was shouting “Crucify him.”   Followers of Jesus were hard to find by Friday afternoon.  Good Friday seemed to be Jesus’ ultimate demise, the polar opposite of just a few days earlier.  The chief priests and Pharisees must have thought the Jesus movement was over for sure as the few friends he had left put him in the tomb.  Of course we know that Easter (Resurrection Sunday) and the day of Pentecost are coming soon, but Palm Sunday appears to be a great day of victory while the cross looks like defeat.

Try to keep these things in mind.  The world often has their winning and losing backwards.  When missionaries are persecuted, when pastors are arrested for reading the Bible in public places, when states approve gay marriage, or abortion rights are expanded: don’t be too quick to accept defeat.  The same is true for events that we may perceive as victories.  Political leaders and court systems of the modern world have no more real power than they did in the first century.  The same Jesus that ascended in Acts 1 will return the same way.  He will not be a helpless baby at his second coming.  Despite appearances, the real victory was over death, hell and the grave.

“Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

What is Ash Wednesday?

Re-posted from March 17, 2009.  The original title was Ash Wednesday, Lent, (and p.s. Mardi Gras)  The only change is the date in line 2.  

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter, 40 days if you don’t count Sundays.  This year it fell on February 22nd.  This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of preparation for Holy Week.  At an Ash Wednesday service, part of the ceremony is placing ashes on the forehead as an outward symbol that you will be observing Lent.  During the 40 day period something is given up, anything typically important to the individual, and more time spent in prayer, worship and meditation.  Lent is about preparing ourselves spiritually to observe Holy Week, the days between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is one week before Easter, and celebrates Jesus’ triumphal entry.  Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey to celebrate Passover.  The crowd shouted “Hosanna”, and waved palm branches.  Actual palm branches may be used in a Palm Sunday service, and those branches will be saved until next year, burned, and the ashes used during the Ash Wednesday service mentioned above.  The same Jews shouting “Hosanna” at Jesus’ entry would be shouting “Crucify him” just a few days later.

Good Friday

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Ash Wednesday, Lent, (and p.s. Mardi Gras)

ash-wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter, 40 days if you don’t count Sundays.  This year it fell on February 25th.  This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of preparation for Holy Week.  At an Ash Wednesday service, part of the ceremony is placing ashes on the forehead as an outward symbol that you will be observing Lent.  During the 40 day period something is given up, anything typically important to the individual, and more time spent in prayer, worship and meditation.  Lent is about preparing ourselves spiritually to observe Holy Week, the days between Palm Sunday and Easter. Continue reading