The passion week
"Never in the universe of God did there take place such things as took place that week on this earth" (John Duncan).
Here are listed ten incidents that took place during "Passion Week.” Each one is in the strictest sense unique.
1. The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was a fulfilment of Zecharias’ prophecy.
It is rightly termed a triumphal entry, for Jesus legitimately assumed a regal role for himself, even though as befitted his character, he rode meekly and humbly. Yet the kingly aspect of his messiahship shines forth just before the assault on his life by evil men attempted to make mockery of his kingship ("Hail, king of the Jews," and the title, "This is Jesus the king of the Jews"). This event was unique for no other can rightly pose or present himself as King of the church, save Jesus Christ.
2. The anointing by Mary at Bethany.
"She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying" (Mark 14:8). The special case of anointing before the proper time is singled out by Christ as worthy of remembrance.
By this act Christ is honoured in a unique way: no one before or after experienced a similar treatment, though this was hardly understood by even his close disciples then.
3. The eating of the Passover in the upper chamber is unique because during that time a sacrament of the New Covenant took the place of a shadow. The Old Covenant was inaugurated with the sprinkling of blood and similarly the ratification of the New Covenant took place by the death of the testator. All this is set forth in the Lord's supper which was instituted on the very eve of his passion.
4. Though Christ interceded for his own as the need arose (cf. "Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded...but I have prayed for thee...") just before his passion we are given an open window to behold our Great High Priest fulfilling his special and unique role as Intercessor (Paraclete) "for those whom Thou hast given me."
In John 17 we have a prayer such as no-one else could or would have prayed. It is a summation of Christ's ministry, together with his petition to bring his own to full salvation and glory.
5. In the garden of Getsemane, a curious incident happened that baffles all those who doubt or deny the deity of Christ. As Jesus answered the crowd, "Ego eimi," claiming deity to himself, the would-be arrestors "went backward, and fell to the ground" (John 18:6).
The word of Christ, however contemptible it seem to be, is full of majesty, and accompanied with divine power, and terror to his enemies. At the very hour when Christ was accounted helpless, a token of his omnipotence is given forth.
6. The betrayal of the Son of Man.
Numerous betrayals and treacheries are recorded in the annals of history, but none so macabre and iniquitous as Judas's hypocritical kiss. Upon his own confession, he betrayed innocent blood, but more than that he betrayed and rejected his own Creator, which act served under God's sovereignty to effect his plan of redemption.
7. The depravity of the heart of man comes to light in the choice the crowd made, preferring to have a brigand and murderer released and condemning the spotless Son of God to a shameful death.
Throughout history man made senseless choices but not so blatantly wicked than this one.
8. The inscription upon Jesus’ head as he hung on the tree was, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews."
It was nailed there to mock "the victim," and yet so ironically true. Men reject God's Messiah but they still, unwittingly, serve God's purposes. Perhaps that same inscription was an instigation to the thief to ask Jesus to remember him: a tract published by the enemy was instrumental in the salvation of one of God's elect!
9. The cry of dejection, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?" was unheard of before that day, for though Christ quotes David's lament in Psalm 22, David spoke not of himself primarily but of the Messiah that was to proceed from his loins.
It is properly Christ's lament: truly a profound utterance for who among mortals can begin to comprehend the transaction that was taking place then, when Christ was the Sin-bearer and as such rejected by his own Father?
10. The burial of the Prince of Life was necessarily a temporary burial, actually, in a borrowed tomb, for it would be vacated on the third day.
The uniqueness is demonstrated all the more in the light of prophecy and repeated announcements from Christ's lips that death will not be the end as far as he was concerned. He was buried and with him our sins were buried "in the depths of the sea".
Persons in the passion of Christ
Many were involved in the sufferings and death of Christ. In addition the circumstances and events around Calvary are not without significance.
We will consider some of them.
Being the son of perdition and a devil, and also being predicted that he should play such a perfidious part, Judas was instrumental in triggering off the arrest and eventual execution of Jesus. The irony of it all is that he who was so close to the Saviour continued in a lost estate till he went to his own place.
Pilate was the Roman governor in Judaea at the time of the accomplishment of our redemption. He is mentioned by name in the Creed to pinpoint for all generations that the God-wrought redemption is historical and real. It actually happened. The spotless Lamb of God was sentenced to die by an historical personage. It leaves us in no doubt as to the actuality of Christ's visitation among us and his redemption on our behalf.
Barabbas, whose name means "son of the father," was brought out and actually preferred to Jesus, who is also "Son of the Father," though in a far different sense. Jesus is God's choice Saviour; Barabbas represents depraved man's choice.
It proves how much man is blind to spiritual reality: for if they had known they would not have crucified the Lord of God. It is only man's hard and impenitent heart that chooses a murderer and an insurrectionist; anyone, but not Christ.
d. The centurion.
The Roman official in charge of seeing that the execution of Jesus actually took place bare witness to the proceedings and the innocence of Jesus. He saw how Jesus comported himself all the while; he watched him, and finally after dying, the centurion exclaimed, "Truly this one was the Son of God."
He was not a believer and yet all the events, collectively considered, brought him to make such an astounding (and true) statement.
e. Jesus’ words, "It is finished."
"Tetelestai," one word of triumph and completion. The debt is forever paid off; the objective has been reached; mission accomplished. It was the climactic moment of truth. Prophecy pointed with suspense to this hour, and Christ's victory over death, Satan, sin and hell is here declared.
f. Jesus bowing His head before yielding up His spirit to the Father.
I presume that this is a symbolic action on the part of the Lord Jesus to indicate his complete obedience and reverence to the Father and his will. What the Bible says about Christ's humiliation (e.g. Philippians 2:5ff) is here graphically portrayed for us to see.
g. The crucifixion.
Though many times the Jews madly tried to stone Jesus (for supposed blasphemy) or attempted to throw him of the cliff, yet he died by being raised up and hanged on a tree. This is important for thus we know that Christ in being crucified bore the curse of the Law, lifting the curse from us and bearing it himself. See Galatians 3, quoting Deuteronomy, "Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree..."
h. Joseph of Arimathea.
Though all seemed to be dejected and forlorn on Calvary, yet the appearance of Joseph (and Nicodemus) reveals that God always has his own who seek his kingdom and wait for the consolation of Israel. They come out when least expected.
i. The soldiers not breaking Jesus’ legs.
This action was normally taken to ensure that the criminals really died, for with their legs broken they would soon suffocate, not being about to bear their weight. In coming to Jesus and seeing that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. It was an unnecessary action. Instead they simply pierced his side with a lance: another proof that Christ really died, to counter later misrepresentations (Docetic, etc.) that he only appeared to have died.
j. The speedy burial of Jesus.
Since the Sabbath was fast approaching they quickly and without ceremony disposed of the sacred body of Jesus in a nearby tomb. What utter humiliation! for Christ should have had the most spectacular burial in all history, and yet hardly anybody seemed to care.
But his resting in the grave guaranteed for us an eternal rest.