Every Sunday celebrates Easter. First-century Christians transferred the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. This year is special, for the days and dates of the Passion Week align with our calendars.
Because the Bible and history offer specific details, we know that Jesus Christ was crucified on April 3, AD 33.
It takes years for the calendar to roll around and allow for the exact dates of the Passion Week to align with our own calendars. This year it’s happening.
Here’s a simple chronology of the Passion Week’s events with the days and dates they occurred.
On Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem, He passed through Jericho. Leaving town, He would have walked between the palace buildings of Herod the Great, the king of Jews when Jesus was born.
The opulent palace straddled the ancient road Jesus traveled and connected to itself across a bridge that spanned the road. When Jesus passed beneath the bridge between the buildings of Herod the Great, He must have considered this paranoid king who tried to kill Him as a boy in Bethlehem.
Ironically, King Herod died in this Jericho palace while the true King of Israel lived to pass between its walls on His way to lay down His life.
As Jesus and His disciples leaned uphill toward Jerusalem, they walked a well-traveled road called the “Ascent of Adummim.” This wasn’t the first time Jesus walked this road.
Nor was it the first time He used it as a setting for teaching us a lesson.
As much as we wish it were otherwise, life has no easy answers to our struggles. Oh, I know, I know . . . God is the Answer. But what happens when the Answer doesn’t answer?
Because God can stop our pain, we think He should. So we pray. And pray.
But nothing happens.
That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.
From what happened next, I see 3 lessons to help us understand why Jesus waits to answer our prayer.
Jesus performed more miracles in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee than any other place in His ministry. Standing on its shores, one can easily see across the shallow lake.
The hills to the east and west tower above the water. As cool air from these heights rushes down the slopes into the lake’s warmer basin, winds can whip up the surface of the water to deadly proportions.
A small craft, such as the one Matthew reported the disciples clung to during a stormy night, could find itself foundering in an instant.
In one day, Christ taught His disciples a simple truth we should never forget.
One of our greatest challenges is finding balance in the Christian life. Think of a person on a tightrope. There’s never a point where they just stroll across effortlessly. Balance requires continual effort.
Have you ever noticed that somehow Jesus balanced it all? The demands of His work and ministry left Him exhausted at times, of course—yet somehow He found time to get it all done.
Jesus perfectly balanced the demands of life—with the same 24 hours we have.
We don’t say it out loud, but often we expect that if we believe and live correctly, we’ll have great marriages, healthy bank balances, well-balanced children, and freedom from major problems.
Of course, we know better—but we still lean on the side of expecting blessing for obedience.
The truth is, we have expectations of God. And sometimes, honestly, He fails those expectations.
Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.
The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).
But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)
The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.
Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.
I’ll never forget my first visit to Bethlehem. In the city of Jesus’ birth, we spent the bulk of our time shopping. Sounds like Christmas, doesn’t it?
(Photo: Bethlehem olivewood shop. By ecjones)
Gold jewelry set with opals and diamonds sat alongside bowls, oil lamps and other imitation artifacts. Olivewood statues filled the interior of the large establishment, coloring the whole room light brown.
Name any biblical character or animal, and there was an olivewood statue for you! Favorites included:
- Samson pushing the pillars.
- David slaying Goliath.
- And, of course, Nativity scenes of every shape, size and price—from a few bucks to a few thousand.
And the tourists fell upon the plunder.
One wooden figurine caught my eye, a bust of Elvis Presley, and I had to grin. Elvis in Israel? I called over the owner, a proprietor who can smell a tour bus a mile away, and asked him my question.
He corrected me and told me who it really was.
Bethlehem’s main attraction centers on the oldest standing church in Israel. The ancient structure marks the traditional site of Jesus’ birth, and yet, it isn’t much to look at.
Built in the sixth century by the emperor Justinian, the Church of the Nativity sits on top of the location of the original octagonal church Constantine’s mother, Helena, constructed just a few centuries after Jesus.
When I went there earlier this year, it looked altogether uninspiring and unassuming.
To me, that’s appropriate.
There has always been only one way to God—even in the Old Testament. That way is by grace through faith in the object of God’s choosing. Bethel gives us a peek at that way.
In his flight to Haran, Jacob spent the night at Bethel, where years earlier his grandfather Abraham had heard God promise that he would receive all the land as far as he could see. There, Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven, and the Lord repeated to him the promises that Abraham received.
Shaken, Jacob awoke and cried:
How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. —Gen. 28:17
Jacob named the site Bethel—“house of God.” The dream gave more than a vision of God’s house.
It offered a foreshadowing of how to get there.