Perhaps you are familiar with the saying, “What a difference a week makes.” The saying highlights how much things like the weather forecast to the price of gas can change in a short period of time. But, considering the drastic effects of recent events, this traditional maxim has proven to be even more true. From public school shut-downs, extreme fluctuations in the stock market, stay-at-home orders, to the rapid spread of disease and death, our lives have been rapidly and completely turned upside down.
While we will certainly reflect on this unprecedented season as one that changed life as we know it, when it comes to a week that made a difference in history there is no greater one than the Passion Week. Within the week itself, from the time Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to the time he rose from the dead, the situation changed entirely for him. The crowds went from applauding him to accusing him, from praising him to punishing him, from celebrating him to crucifying him, and from exalting him to executing him. But, most importantly, as a result of what occurred that week, everything changed eternally for us. As we consider the events of the Passion Week, there are three particular truths that change everything for you and me.
Jesus Arrived For Our Sin
First, Jesus arrived for our sin. The timing of his entrance to Jerusalem was significant as the Passover celebration began (Matt.21:1-11). Scholars estimate that as many as two million people would have gathered in Jerusalem. Jesus arrived in a kingly and prophetic manner riding on a donkey, a royal animal used by Jewish monarchs (cf. 1 Kgs. 2:40) that also fulfilled the messianic predictions in Zechariah 9:9. The Passover was instituted as a commemorative celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt and it was consummated through the sacrifice of a spotless lamb (Ex. 12). Prophetically, this historical event was intended to foreshadow Christ as the ultimate Passover lamb (Jn. 1:29; Rev. 5:6-14).
His arrival for the Passover that week also signified the purpose of his incarnational arrival as the Son of God and Savior of the world (Matt. 1:21). Jesus described the ultimate purpose for his messianic arrival throughout his ministry and, in many ways, it contradicted the people’s expectations. For example, he did not come to rule, he came to serve (Matt. 20:28). And he did not come to destroy, he came to save (Lk. 19:10). In other words, Jesus did not arrive to rescue their nation, he came to redeem the nations.
As we celebrate Easter, we should celebrate Jesus’ arrival for our sin. The crowds greeted him that week with shouts of “Hosanna!” or “save us now!” (Matt. 21:9). But contrary to their pleas, the salvation Jesus provides is not political or circumstantial, it is spiritual. Jesus arrived to serve us, to suffer as our substitute, and to save us from our sin.
Jesus Agonized Over Our Sin
The second truth of Passion Week that changes everything for us is that Jesus agonized over our sin. 700 years before Jesus arrived, Isaiah prophesied that God’s judgement for sin would be “satisfied” by the suffering of the Messiah and “the anguish of his soul” (Isa. 51:11). During his life and ministry, Jesus was “despised and rejected” and he was “a man of sorrows” who was “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). But the agony Jesus experienced during the Passion Week was exponentially more than personal trials, temptations, or tragedies.
After celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus endured the agony in the garden. In the hours leading up to his death, Jesus sought peace in the garden of Gethsemane through communion with the Father. Gethsemane literally means “oil press” and as Jesus prayed his heart was squeezed and overflowed with sorrow. Luke vividly describes the unbearable torment he felt in those moments (Lk. 22:41-44) and Jesus verbally lamented the depth of his agony with words of grief and anguish (Mk. 14:34). As he stared into the cup of God’s wrath and anticipated tasting death on our behalf, Jesus yielded himself to the Father.
In addition to the garden, Jesus also endured the agony at Golgotha. Our Savior was crucified at the “Place of a Skull” (Matt. 27:33) and suffered the humiliating and excruciating death of a Roman crucifixion, something that was reserved for the vilest of criminals. Yet, the greatest agony of his death was not the extreme physical pain he endured, but the rejection of his Father (Matt. 22:46) and the outpouring of God’s judgement so that we might be justified (Rom. 3:24-25). On the cross, Jesus became our satisfying atonement, “the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:3).
For the sake of our sin, Jesus also endured the agony of the grave. God’s instruction to Adam in the garden warned that the consequences of sin was death (Gen. 2:17) and Scripture clearly teaches this as a universal and unalterable premise (Rom. 3:23). Through “the suffering of death,” Jesus endured our punishment so that he “might taste death” on our behalf (Heb. 2:9). As a result, Jesus satisfied the debt of our sin, defeated the enemy, and triumphed over the grave (Col. 2:14-15). Therefore, because of his agony, we can celebrate the Easter season as those who have been rescued from guilt, shame, and eternal suffering.
Jesus Atoned For Our Sin
The final truth about the Passion Week that changes everything for us is that Jesus atoned for our sin. The glorious reality of Jesus’ arrival and agony is the reconciling work they accomplished on our behalf (1 Pet. 3:18). Christ’s incarnation and substitution identifies him as the mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). In the fullness of his humanity, his body carried our sin. Scripture tells us he “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24) and he “carried our sorrows” and was “pierced for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:4-5). God offered the initial sacrifice to cover man’s sin in the garden when he clothed Adam and Eve with animal skin (Gen. 3:21). The sacrifice, along with the entire sacrificial system throughout the Old Testament, foreshadowed Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice who offered his “body” as the substitute, “once for all” (Heb. 10:1-10).
In addition, his blood cleansed our sin. According to God’s original covenant, blood was used to purify and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). But the blood of animal sacrifices was never sufficient to secure our eternal redemption. It was only through “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot,” that our ransom could be paid, and our forgiveness could be purchased (1 Pet. 1:18; cf. Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20). When Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, he explained the substitutionary and sacrificial nature of his body and his blood, as represented by the bread and fruit of the vine, that established the new covenant (Matt. 26:26-28).
Beyond the body and blood, the glory of the Easter season is that Christ’s atonement for our sin was ultimately consummated when his burial and resurrection conquered our sin. Jesus has predicted his resurrection on multiple occasions (Matt. 16:21; 28:6) and he explicitly identified himself as “the resurrection and life” (Jn 11:25). His bodily resurrection demonstrated that there is eternal life beyond this earthly life, but it also claimed the decisive victory over death and the grave.
Victory In Jesus
Perhaps what is most astounding is that this victory is available for everyone who places their faith in his death, burial and resurrection as the substitutionary sacrifice for their sins. By trusting Christ as our Lord and Savior we can be born again to “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).
In other words, the week that made the most profound difference in history, can make a personal difference in our life. By his love and through his grace, the truths of Passion Week can change our old lives into new life (2 Cor. 5:17), transform our brokenness into beauty (Isa. 61:1-3), redeem us from alienation for adoption (Col. 1:21-22), and raise us from death to life (Eph. 2:4-5). Indeed, what a difference a week makes!
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