April 20 – Updated Passion Week Report – Saturday Peace at the Tomb

Quiet Day at the Tomb

Read Matthew 27:57-66

JERUSALEM, Saturday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Although one anticipates relative peace at a grave site, that is not a given for the tomb of Jesus. The past seven days have been marked by anything but peace and quiet. Controversies over the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth escalated to the point of His arrest on Thursday and His crucifixion yesterday. But the tense, tumultuous, and controversial week culminated in a peaceful Jewish Sabbath today.

Many suspect that the peace is only temporary as tensions are masked by the Jewish Sabbath/Passover observance. Sabbath observances limit the activity of Jews. Still, even as Jesus was crucified yesterday, His disciples were notably absent. The only obvious followers of Jesus present for His crucifixion were His mother, a handful of other women, and one disciple identified as John.

In order to ensure peace at the tomb, government officials took steps to guarantee that the body of Jesus would go untouched. After an appeal from Jewish leaders, Pilate had the tomb sealed and placed a guard on watch.

The guard shed further light: “Jews were concerned about predictions that Jesus had made about rising from the dead. They didn’t want His disciples to come and steal His body and make some kind of ridiculous resurrection claim. That’s the reason the tomb was sealed and why I am here.” He went on, “Actually, today has been pretty boring. To be honest, I am not expecting anything to happen. I am just trying to pass the time.” Pointing to the club at his side, the guard concluded, “I am prepared in case His followers come to steal his corpse.”

It will be interesting to see what transpires once the Sabbath is over.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

I heard Jesus make those predictions about His death and His burial. He was definitely accurate with those claims. I also witnessed Jesus powerfully performing miracles. His predictions of His own resurrection were also clear. Although I don’t pretend to understand how a dead man can rise again, I would say that a tight fitting, heavy stone, a bit of wax, and a man with a club are not insurmountable obstacles for the miracle worker.

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April 19 – Passion Week Report – Friday Crucifixion

Jesus of Nazareth Executed

Read Luke 22:66-23:56

JERUSALEM, Friday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Jesus of Nazareth was crucified today just outside of the city at Golgotha. This latest development is the result of middle of the night interrogations and final sentencing by Governor Pilate.

Jesus had been apprehended late last night by Jewish officials in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was charged with violation of Jewish law and presented as a threat to the Roman government. In the early morning hours, Jesus was interrogated by Jewish officials, Pilate, and even Herod, governor of Galilee. Pontius Pilate, wanting to please the Jews but distance himself from their desires, reluctantly pronounced the sentence of public execution by crucifixion.

After scourging, Jesus carried His cross with the help of a fellow Jew to Golgatha. In an interview, the cross-carrier, Simon of Cyrene, explained, “My family and I had come to town to celebrate the Passover. I saw this beaten man stumbling under the weight of His cross. Suddenly, Roman guards demanded that I carry it for Him. Somewhere along the way, I learned that this man was Jesus. I had heard many good things about Him.”

Once at Golgotha, nails were driven into the hands and feet of Jesus before the cross was placed upright. On either side of Him were criminals being executed for their crimes. As the hours unfolded, both people from the crowds and from the other crosses taunted Him. To the surprise of all gathered, He did not enter into debate or self-defense. Instead, He graciously prayed that God would “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” And to one of the men on the cross, He is reported as saying, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

By mid-afternoon, Jesus had died. His body was removed from the cross and placed into a tomb.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

As a Roman soldier, it was my job to ensure that the crowds not get out of control. I have witnessed many such executions in my day. But none was like this one. Jesus was so gracious, compassionate, and even forgiving. Concurrent with His execution, the earth shook and the sky became dark. I even heard reports of the temple veil being torn and of dead people rising from the dead and walking about.

My personal conclusion is that surely this man was not just a righteous man but the Son of God. What conclusions would you draw?

A Roman Centurion

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April 18 – Passion Week Report – Thursday Arrest

Jesus Arrested

Read Matthew 26:36-56

JERUSALEM, late Thursday, spring ca. 30 a.d. –Jesus of Nazareth was taken into custody late this evening. Jewish officials report that he was apprehended somewhat peacefully in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The arrest comes on the heels of growing antagonism between Jesus and religious leaders. Grounds for his arrest are yet unclear. Officials are reporting concerns that He represented both a threat to the Jewish faith and also to the Roman government. Contrary to Jewish law, it is anticipated that allegations will be weighed through the night. Jewish officials desire to accelerate the process in light of the looming annual Passover festival.

Jesus and His disciples had allegedly spent the day in the city. In the evening, they made their way to the Garden. Initial reports indicate that Judas Iscariot, one of His own followers led a large group of armed men to take Jesus into custody. Judas could not be found for comment about the reasons for his action.

Eyewitnesses say that Simon Peter, another of Jesus’ followers was the only one to become aggressive. Purportedly, the disciple swung a sword in defense of his master. An armed man from the crowd sustained injuries to his ear.

In the end, Jesus went away peacefully. Meanwhile, His followers scattered in fear and were not available for interviews.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

I was part of the crowd gathered to arrest the man that evening. I came with a club in hand. In fact, I was the man who sustained the ear injury. It could have been much worse. The Simon guy was swinging wildly. He could have hit me more directly.

I started to go into shock seeing my ear lying on the ground and feeling the blood running down my face and neck. The bigger shock came next. Jesus, the very man we were arresting, reached out and restored my ear!

I have been asking myself ever since, “How could a man being arrested be so gracious to one who didn’t care if He lived or died?” If I only had such compassion for people! You can’t tell anything ever happened to my ear, but I don’t know if the rest of me will ever be the same.

 

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April 17 – Passion Week Report – Wednesday Bethany

Religious Tensions Calming?

Read John 12:1-19

JERUSALEM, Wednesday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Growing tensions between Jesus of Nazareth and Jewish religious leaders seem to have calmed some today. After three days of major, controversial appearances in Jerusalem, there were no reported sightings of Jesus and His disciples in the city today.

For the last several years, religious leaders, especially Pharisees, have expressed opposition towards Jesus. These tensions have been related to the claims of Christ, His reported miracles (some of which were performed on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest), and His growing popularity. In these last days, this antagonism has increased.

  • Sunday – Crowds cheered as Jesus entered the Holy City on a donkey. Pharisees were outspokenly opposed to the accolades.
  • Monday – Jewish leaders felt attacked as Jesus drove money changers and those selling doves from the temple.
  • Tuesday – In an impromptu debate in the temple, Herodians and Pharisees invited Jesus to dialogue and attempted to trap Jesus with questions about His positions and practices. Jesus later gave a pointed admonishment to and warning about the hypocrisy of the Jewish teachers and Pharisees.

Unsubstantiated reports indicate that Jesus, this controversial figure, spent the day in Bethany. It is there, that just days ago, Jesus is reported to have raised His long-time friend Lazarus from the dead. That act not only increased His popularity, but it also multiplied tensions.

Today, with no added confrontations, some are speculating that things will calm as the annual Jewish feast of Passover is only days away.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

The raising of Lazarus is more than an unsubstantiated report. Lazarus is my brother. He had been terribly sick. Although my sister and I had sent for Jesus, days passed and Lazarus died. It was one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. The funeral had taken place. We had placed our brother in the tomb.

Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus died. It was great to have our trusted friend with us, but it was clearly too late. We had heard many reports of Him healing the living. What He did after arriving, however, we never would have anticipated. He asked that the stone on our brother’s tomb be moved, and He commanded that Lazarus exit. To our utter shock, surprise, and joy, our brother came out of the tomb alive!

While I don’t know what the days ahead may hold, I do know that Jesus is One who has power over death.

Mary

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April 16 – Passion Week Report – Tuesday Denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees

Standoff in Temple

Read Matthew 21:23-23:39

JERUSALEM, Tuesday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Antagonism between Jesus of Nazareth and local Pharisees increased in a standoff in the temple today.

After yesterday’s controversial cleansing of the temple, Jesus returned today to this Jewish holy place. While there with His followers, representatives of different groups sought to engage Him in debate in an effort to expose weaknesses in His positions.

Chief priests and elders asked about the authority of His teaching. Herodians sought to trap Him in His position about paying taxes. Sadducees attempted to demonstrate the illogic of His teaching about the resurrection of the dead. Meanwhile, Pharisees were seen conferring with one another. Ultimately, one of them posed a question about the greatest commandment of the Jewish Law.

In each instance, Jesus’ response seemed to silence His interrogators. One neutral bystander commented, “I found myself resonating with the questions from the different groups, thinking, ‘They’ve trapped Him with that one!’ Still, His responses were always clear and seemed to quiet their arguments. It was amazing to witness. Maybe His disciples have good reason for following Him, after all!”

Just before leaving the temple, Jesus addressed the crowds with one final, scathing warning about, and admonition to, the scribes and Pharisees. Seven times, He spoke “woes” of judgment against these adversaries. Repeatedly, He sought to expose hypocrisy, with the argument that their expectations of others was vastly different from their own lifestyles.

Pharisees were notably silent as Jesus finished and left the temple. One Pharisee told reporters, “It’s true, we withheld further comment today. Still, those kinds of remarks will not go unanswered.”

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

As a former Pharisee, I understand tension here. I was also once a Pharisee defined by rules…rules that were stricter for others than for myself. They were rules that I could not live up to. In a private meeting with Jesus, He showed me the need to jettison my attempts to keep the rules. He offered me a new life…a life marked by grace and granted on the basis of faith rather than performance.

Woe to those living according to rules. Grace to those liberated by faith.

Nicodemus

 

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April 15 – Passion Week Report – Monday Cleansing of Temple

Jesus Upends Temple Tables

Read Mark 11:15-21

JERUSALEM, Monday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – For the second day in a row, Jesus of Nazareth attracted public attention in the Jerusalem area. With worshipers gathered in the temple court (Court of the Gentiles), Jesus expressed great frustration with practices within the Court.

With obvious, but controlled anger, Jesus began by driving people from the temple. His efforts seemed targeted against those both offering and engaging in the services of money exchange and dove sales. Simeon, a man helping with money exchange described what they had experienced, “He just came in citing the prophet Isaiah calling the temple a ‘house of prayer for the nations’ and calling those of us offering the services ‘robbers.’”

As He drove people from the temple, He also overturned the tables and benches used by those exchanging money and selling doves. Joseph, a man selling doves, reported, “We [money changers and dove sales people] are just there to offer a service of convenience.” The Law requires the payment of a half-shekel temple tax and the offering of the right kind of animals. Joseph continued, “For a small up-charge, we ensure that people have the right currency and the right animals.”

This event comes on the heels of the celebratory entrance of Jesus into the city. After spending the night in Bethany on the outskirts of town, He came to Jerusalem again to turn the heads of some and the backs of others.

EDWG

Temple officials reported that no one was injured in today’s unusual events.

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

While your comments accurately reflected the supposed intentions of money changers and those selling doves, reality is somewhat different. The upcharge is significant! People are gouging would be worshipers for personal profit. Not only that, but the whole temple atmosphere has become one marked by bartering rather than worshiping. The very space intended to welcome outsiders has become a circus for insiders.

I stand with Jesus on this one. I am setting aside personal gain in order to see the nations reached. May your church today be known for its prayerful commitment to the nations rather than its yearning for money! In fact, I will invite internationals to join me for Easter weekend at Grace Church.

 

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April 14 – Passion Week Report – Palm Sunday

Celebrated Arrival of Jesus

Read Luke 19:29-44

JERUSALEM, Sunday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – Crowds gathered on streets outside of Jerusalem today as Jesus of Nazareth rode from the Mount of Olives towards the Holy City. With loud exclamations of “Hosanna” and the waving of palm branches, the renowned miracle worker was lauded as a king.

While most government dignitaries ride horses, Jesus is reported to have ridden on a donkey. When asked about this unusual mode of transportation, Andrew, a former fisherman turned follower replied, “We were just following the Master’s instructions. The donkey didn’t even belong to us. He told us where to find it, and the owner let us borrow it.” Andrew further connected the donkey ride with Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9), suggesting that Jesus is also the promised King and source of salvation.

His close followers were not the only ones lining the streets and celebrating His entrance. Hundreds of others also turned out. One enthusiast stated her reasons for coming, “My brother-in-law had been blind. But, after an encounter with Jesus, he is now able to see! We just had to come and celebrate.” Indeed, Christ’s miraculous deeds of healing, feeding of large crowds, and even walking on water have garnered the attention of countless people throughout the land from Judea to Galilee in recent years.

Shouts and cheers of “Hosanna to the son of David!” clearly rang out as Jesus passed by. From Zechariah’s prophecy to this statement of relationship with David, it is clear that many gathered anticipate that Jesus will one day reign as king. Meanwhile, press secretary for King Herod refused to comment.

But the atmosphere was not celebratory for all. While the majority cheered, a handful of Pharisees in the crowd saw these statements as blasphemous and demanded that Jesus correct them. He refused.

Careful onlookers also observed Jesus Himself mourning in the end. As the city came into view, He was overwhelmed with grief and wept. He grieved knowing that, while many recognized Him as Savior and King, the city before him had failed to respond.

EDWG

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

I am among those reveling today in the reality of His kingdom and the anticipation of salvation. I am living this Passion Week mindful of His greatness. I will take advantage of these days knowing that there are people the King wants to gather to Himself. I am inviting them to join me this weekend for Easter at Grace.

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