Holy Week

Holy Week Day 8: Easter Sunday

Free Easter reflections and holy week devotions from Leslie Ann Jones.

(download your free Holy Week reading guide here)

Suggested Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10 and Luke 24

On Easter Sunday, a couple of women went to Jesus' tomb to anoint him for burial, but when they arrived, he wasn't there. The tomb was empty, and an angel greeted them with the shocking news that Jesus was, in fact, alive. The women hurried back to tell the others, and Jesus later surprised his grieving disciples by showing up in their midst. 

Can you imagine what it must have been like? To think that the one upon whom you had laid all your hopes was dead only to have him suddenly appear in front of you. It had to have given the disciples quite a shock. 

But oh, what a good shock it was.

Easter is my favorite, y'all. It's the foundation upon which our entire faith rests. Without the resurrection, Jesus Christ is just another dead prophet. Without the resurrection, death wins, and we are hopeless. Without the resurrection, we who call ourselves Christians are most unfortunate indeed. That's what the apostle Paul says, anyway (1 Corinthians 15).

Thank God for the resurrection. Because Christ has been raised, we are confident that death doesn't get the final say. Life wins, and we have hope for a future where there is no more death, no more tears, no more pain. There will be no more sickness or suffering or sorrow.

And that, my friends, is what Easter is all about. It's the first ray of sunshine after a dark, dark night. It's the preview of the main event. It's the assurance we so desperately need that everything is going to be OK after all.

And so today, on this Resurrection Sunday, I wish you a Happy Easter. May the joy and hope of that first Easter morning flood your hearts today and every day from now until eternity.

Video © 2014 TGC

Holy Week Day 7: Holy Saturday

Reflections on the walk to the cross during Holy Week via Leslie Ann Jones.

(download your free Holy Week reading guide here)

Suggested Readings: Isaiah 52:13-15Isaiah 53, and Luke 23:56

On Holy Saturday, not much happened...that we know of, at least. Since it was the Jewish Sabbath, all activity came to a grinding halt, and Jesus' followers had to wait until the next day to properly prepare his body for burial.

Every time I think about that day, I can't help but wonder what those closest to Jesus were thinking and feeling. He had told them quite explicitly that the Son of Man would die and rise on the third day, but given their behavior that weekend, it's pretty clear that they didn't understand exactly what Jesus meant.

Their own words serve as evidence: "Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people...we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel." (Luke 24:18-21)

Did you notice that? They used past tense. They acted as if all of their hopes had died right alongside Jesus on that cross. Saturday must have been a day of overwhelming grief and confusion. How could it have been anything else?

Can you imagine? Even though I try, I can't even begin to comprehend the depth of their sorrow, because I always have the end of the story in sight. It changes everything.

But we can't get to Sunday until we go through Saturday. And so, on this Holy Saturday, as we wait for the dawn of a new day, let's give glory to the One who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows far, far away. 

Sunday is coming. 

Video © 2014 TGC

Holy Week Day 6: Good Friday

Free Holy Week Bible reading guide and daily reflections from Leslie Ann Jones.

(download your free reading guide here)

Suggested Readings: Psalm 22:1-18Luke 22:66-71, and Luke 23:1-56

On Good Friday, the Jewish leaders, with the help of Pilate, subjected Jesus to a shoddy trial that resulted in a death sentence for the one who would be called the King of the Jews. He was hastily crucified and quickly buried before the Sabbath began that evening.

It's a contradiction, really, to speak of Good Friday as good. It is, after all, the day that Jesus died, and we don't generally think of death as a good thing. When's the last time you heard someone jumping for joy after a loved one died? Probably never. When someone dies, our first thoughts aren't usually, "Good! I'm so glad!"

Sometimes I think we Christians brush over Jesus' death. When it comes to Easter, we sing songs about the resurrection and proclaim gladly, "Up from the Grave He Arose!" because that's what happened. That's the end of the story. But in order for the resurrection to be possible, first the death had to occur.

Those of us who believe know that Jesus was both fully God and fully human, but the confounding thing about this story is that on Good Friday, he dies. It's the last thing we expect to happen. The most shocking thing about the story. That God Almighty, the immortal, unchangeable, king of creation, all-powerful, unchanging Lord could actually die.

And yet, in the span of a few hours one Friday morning, he laid all of that aside and breathed his last. For me. For you. For all of us.

His death was necessary to cancel out everything that is ugly and evil and wrong in this world. And that is exactly what he did. He canceled it all out. In that moment, finally, justice was served.

And that is why Good Friday is so good. Because on that day, God offered himself as the perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that would do. And it is by that sacrifice that we are healed. That we are purified. That we are able to draw near to God.

And that, sweet friends, is a good thing.

Video © 2014 TGC

Holy Week Day 5: Maundy Thursday

Holy Week reflections on the last days of Jesus. via leslieannjones.com

(download your free reading guide here)

Suggested Readings: Isaiah 50:4-10 and Luke 22:1-65

On Maundy Thursday, after celebrating the Passover and instituting the Lord's Supper with his disciples, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. There, Judas betrayed him. He was arrested, tortured, and questioned while Peter denied him.

Let's take a minute to talk about the Passover, shall we? I, for one, have always been horrified by the story (found in Exodus 12). It reeks of blood and death and destruction, and I don't like to think that the God that I love and serve would do something like that.

My discomfort lies in the fact that I tend to think of the Egyptians as innocent bystanders in a throwdown between God and Pharaoh, but the truth is that they were not. There was nothing innocent about them. They were sinners just like the rest of us, and whether we like it or not, death is the natural outcome of sin. 

It's a hard truth, but it is truth nonetheless. The wrath of God against sin is relentless. He will not let it go unpunished . . . But the good news is that his mercy is every bit as real and relentless as his wrath.

And so it was that on that Passover night as Jesus and the disciples remembered how God in his great mercy made a way for the Israelites to survive the final plague, God was making a new way for the rest of us to survive the terrible wrath to come.

Because what was true on that first Passover night is still true today. Unless we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, we will face the same fate as the Egyptians. 

Of course Jesus knew that. It's the reason he didn't resist the arrest. It's the reason he didn't bother to answer their accusations. It's the reason he allowed himself to be beaten and tortured and ridiculed. 

It is, after all, the reason he came.

Video © 2014 TGC