We continue our overview of the Liturgical Calendar with Passion week, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. Remember, the goal is not to focus on how we celebrate, but why we celebrate. These traditions, celebrations, and festivals are all about Jesus. They are to act as an encouragement to you, and if you feel led by the Spirit, adopt them in how you worship.
As a reminder, this series is just an overview, and if you would like to learn more we would be happy to chat or share resources. At Real Church we exist to point people to Christ and to train them to live out their individual and corporate callings by being real with ourselves, others, and God. We do not force people to practice church traditions or to be particularly fluent in them; however, we believe God uses these traditions to remind us of Him, so having a working knowledge of them is important and will encourage your faith.
So, let’s learn!
Passion Week marks the last week of the Lenten season (learn more about Lent by reading Part I of this blog series) from Palm Sunday (April 9) to Holy Saturday (April 15). It’s a time where we observe the last week of Christ’s ministry on Earth. This week may also be referred to as Holy Week. The word passion comes from the Latin “to suffer” which is a reference to Jesus’s suffering on the Cross. While this week includes the joyful celebrations of Palm Sunday and Easter, it also includes an observance and focused attention on Christ’s suffering, humiliation, and death. We must place the hope of the Resurrection against the backdrop of death and sacrifice to fully understand Jesus’s suffering and victory. It’s not until we realize the magnitude of our sin that Jesus bore on Good Friday that we can truly understand the hope and relief we have on Easter.
As a reminder, these celebrations are “movable feasts” meaning that it occurs on different days in different years. It is tied to the lunar cycle while the calendar is solar based, so the dates displayed will not be the same next year.
Palm Sunday, also known as Passion Sunday, is the sixth Sunday of Lent. This day observes the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem for Passover. As he entered the city riding on a donkey fulfilling Zechariah 9:9, the crowds waved palm branches and proclaimed him as the Messianic King. It’s a day of celebration, yet it also demonstrates the fickle hearts of man. He was welcomed on a Sunday and killed on a Friday. So, while we celebrate the fulfillment of prophecy, let us also be real with ourselves at how quickly we can turn from God.
Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, is when we as a church remember His last supper and night with the disciples. Many events took place on this night, including the Passover meal, the institution of Communion, and Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. If you are wondering what Maundy means, it comes from a Latin word meaning “to order.” It has since been translated as to command, which is in reference to Jesus when he taught his disciples a “new” commandment:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
Good Friday is the day we remember Jesus’s arrest (the Jewish custom of counting days was from sundown to sundown, so it was already Friday), his trial, crucifixion and suffering, death, and burial. It’s a day of mourning, yet we do know the full story — we do know Easter will come and there will be light, so that’s why it is good.
Holy Saturday is the day we remember that Jesus rested in the tomb. Historically, this is the Jewish Sabbath, which provided appropriate symbolism of the seventh day rest. This is a day of quiet meditation and reflection. What if Jesus did not rise? What would a world without hope and without a future look like? So, we remember Psalm 30:5b:
“weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! This is foundational to our faith. We would not be Christians if Jesus was not raised from the dead. How so? Because of the resurrection we know that Jesus is who He says He is: He is the Messiah; the Son of God. We see God demonstrate His power over death; we learn that there will be a future judgement and that God’s justice will prevail; and more importantly, just like Jesus, we too may be born again and have access to eternal life. And that’s just some of it!
There is much more I could say about Easter, but let’s remember that this is supposed to be an overview.
Ascension Day is the 40th day after Easter Sunday, which falls on a Thursday (May 25). On this day we remember when Jesus ascended into heaven after spending 40 days with the disciples post-resurrection. He now sits at the right hand of God! This day we observe His exaltation from servanthood to Ruler and Lord.
Pentecost falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter (June 4). This day we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! This is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise in Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We now have this wonderful gift of the Spirit to empower us to tell the world the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Let’s celebrate and live out this truth.