Oh, What a Week…
Around the world, Christian communities have spent the last week commemorating and celebrating a week long ago that began with palms waving, led to betrayal, suffering, cruel torture and death on a cross, but began anew with resurrection and hope fulfilled in grace. Oh, what a week it was. What we learn of that holy week in the four New Testament gospel accounts are among the most important words of the New Testament, of all time. The celebration of Holy Week — Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter — is the true celebration of the atonement, the redemption of all mankind, the ultimate and most far reaching sacrifice, the application of infinite grace, and the resurrection of our Lord unto glory, our pathway to salvation and eternal life with Him.
Monica and I have spent the last week sharing with our four youngest daughters daily of the things we know, from that week so long ago, and the testimonies of our hearts. Oh, what a week it was, thinking in excited joy of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His cleansing of the temple, healings, and profound and courageous teachings before followers and foes. Our hearts were touched in the reading of that last supper, how He instituted the sacrament that we might renew our covenants, and remember Him always, and how He served as a king should serve, a servant of all. Tears were shed as we thought of His suffering and betrayal, the inhumanity in mock trial by those charged with defending faith and justice, and then His cruelly administered death on the cross. Indeed, oh, what a week.
In his general conference address on Palm Sunday, President Russell M. Nelson referred to Easter as “the most important religious observation for followers of Jesus Christ. The main reason we celebrate Christmas is because of Easter” (General Conference April 2, 2023).
Of Easter, New Testament scholar N. T. Wright observed, “This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity” (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (2008), 256).
Impressing upon listeners the importance of acknowledging the “true meaning of this holiday, so central to all believers in Jesus Christ,” Elder Gary E. Stevenson said, “Because of Jesus Christ, everything changed. Because of Him, everything is better. Because of Him, life is manageable — especially the painful moments. Because of Him, everything is possible” (General Conference April 1, 2023).
Five years ago Monica and I visited Jerusalem, just days before Holy Week. We walked where He walked, the very places He walked during that last week, in places where He taught, where He was falsely accused and tortured, where He was nailed to a tree and died. Our journey led us to a sacred garden where He was laid to rest, and then arose on the third day.
I have been in that place, I have touched that ground, laid my hands on the stone walls of the tomb, and I know it is real. He was there. He died and was buried there, slain for the sins and pains of us all, but He is there no more. He did conquer death. “Oh grave, where is thy victory?” (Corinthians 15:55) Indeed!
The victory is had by the Father of Heaven, and His Son Jesus, and all their children, all of us. We will all raise in the resurrection because of this victory, and if we repent we will live in the sight and presence of our Lord.
I love to study, learn and teach of the last week of the Savior’s mortal sojourn on Earth. Many years ago, long before we had grandchildren, when our grown sons were little boys, and most of our daughters were yet to be born, we sat as a family during that week leading up to Easter, and taught them day by day of all the happenings of that original Holy Week. The Spirit was strong and confirming, and our eldest son, who with affection we call Little Danny, felt it and gained a powerful personal witness of the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. I am ever grateful for that confirming Spirit, for my son gained a testimony of his own of the divine Sonship of Jesus of Nazareth, and His atoning sacrifice. How could I be anything but grateful? I have felt that Spirit over and over. I cherish it. I cherish it more so when someone I teach receives it also. I think my gratitude is increased tenfold. Oh, what a week it was.
Let us raise our voices in praise and joy for we have hope in the atoning sacrifice that brings forgiveness, new life and salvation. Let our voices raise even as He arose. One does not have to visit Golgotha and the Garden Tomb to know these things. While I am grateful that I have been blessed so to do, the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit as communicated when we read of Christ, listen of Him, or testify in His name, is greater than the touch of any hand to stone, or foot step on holy ground.
I know that Jesus is the Redeemer of the world, and that He died and lives for us all. May we with our families and friends have a joyous Easter, and most of all remember and follow Him for all He has done for us. Jesus Christ is the true reason for this most important Easter season. Oh, what a week it is. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.