This is Holy Week, an important time of the liturgical year for Christians, mostly because the word “holy” is right there and one must take all things holy very seriously and with the utmost respect. And I totally would: if it wasn’t for the fact that this coincides with my children’s Spring Break and their favorite activity thus far has been “keep mommy from having an intelligent thought during the day and make her too exhausted to think at night.” Here is the short version of what happened 2,000 years ago, between Christ’s warm welcome in Jerusalem up to his resurrection on the day you eat the ears off your chocolate bunny.
Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday. This is when Christ entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, fulfilling the prophesy as told in parts of the Old Testament particularly in Zechariah, Daniel, and Isaiah. Those passages foretold of the painful death that Jesus would suffer. (Yet no one suggested even once to Jesus, “Maybe we could skip Jerusalem? I heard the Dead Sea has co-eds this year.”) As Jesus entered the city riding a donkey, people waved palm fronds as a symbol of his status as a ruler. People also placed the palms in the road for his donkey to walk on. Jesus chose to stay just outside the city in Bethany with his good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus because Airbnb showed no vacancies in Jerusalem during the busy holiday season.
Don’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like Jesus very much when he is angry.
Proving that everyone has a limit, Jesus lost his temper in the temple. When Jesus found money changers there, he overturned their tables and he said, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
Jesus goes back to the temple in Jerusalem and comes across the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders who were a little perturbed at Jesus for preaching what he did and for acquiring more followers on Twitter than they had. Jesus goes on to give them a tongue lashing- probably because there were no more tables to overturn- in which he tells them off for being outwardly religious people but not following the righteous path that God would want. (Sounds familiar huh, legislators in Indiana and Arkansas?)
That afternoon, Jesus goes to the Mount of Olive Garden where he gets unlimited unleavened breadsticks. In between never ending bowls of pasta, Jesus related parables about the destruction of Israel and his own second coming. This is also the place Jesus made his famous Beatitudes speech (“Blessed are….). Judas left before the tiramisu arrived, as he went to go meet with some priests to sell Jesus out. (Maybe. There has some debate as to whether or not Judas was just helping Christ fulfill his prophecy but I don’t want to discuss this here because all this talk of pasta has made me too hungry to argue.)
Not much is known about what Jesus and his disciples did on Wednesday because all that Jesus wrote in his diary was: “If I have to hear Lazarus tell the story of me raising him from the dead while he makes zombie noises one more time, I am going to turn myself over to the authorities!” Most likely, Jesus and company had a day of rest while preparing for Passover.
Peter and John went ahead to Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover feast for Jesus and the disciples. Once they were all gathered in Jerusalem, Jesus took that opportunity to wash the feet of his apostles, a tradition which is continued for parishioners by some churches on this Maundy Thursday. The disciples then joined their teacher for one last supper, all of them hoping Jesus washed his hands after the foot rub ritual and before breaking bread. During this meal, Jesus established the practice of communion, and invited us all to remember his suffering through a meal with a nice glass of wine.
Later that night, Jesus went to pray in the garden of Gesthemene when Judas showed up with a bunch of people to arrest Jesus. Judas then kissed Jesus to identify him and Christ is taken away to the house of the high priest, Caiaphas, where the Sanhedrin were already building a case against Jesus in their own version of Law & Order: JCU.
Judas, out of guilt, hanged himself that morning in an ultimate attempt to “steal Christ’s thunder” move. Anyway…
Jesus apparently moved quickly through the “judicial” system of the priests as he was tried, convicted, and crucified all on that day. There was Jesus in the early hours, surrounded by high priests accusing him of blasphemy. They asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. In a bit of middle-finger rhetoric, Jesus replied with something along the lines of “if you say so.” And this is where it gets tricky because, according to some accounts, the Sanhedrin could have totally executed Jesus if they wanted to- they had that authority. Instead, they brought him to Pontius Pilate’s house and wanted the prefect to make a decision about what to do with him. Someone offered up the name of Barabbas, a thief, as someone to be executed instead if Jesus. Pilate, knowing how to play to an angry crowd, decided to execute Jesus instead. So who is to blame for Christ’s death? The real enemy is obvious: flash mobs.
(Crucifxion was common throughout Roman lands at this time as a particularly brutal and public way to kill someone. How did the Romans feel about this method of death? It was only for Jews, slaves, and non-Roman citizens. If Jesus had been convicted under Jewish law, he would have been stoned and Madonna would have been in trouble in the 80’s for burning rocks in her video.)
Adding injury to insult, the Roman soldiers beat and flogged Jesus before the trek up to Golgotha, the hill on which he would be put executed. Christ was forced to carry his own death “chair” through Jerusalem while people taunted him and spit at him. Once on the hill, Jesus was crucified between two men, one who asked for Christ’s forgiveness. The other- knowing his audience- joined in the chanting and mocking.
Jesus in the meantime asked God for forgiveness for the people who crucified him. He also asked God “Why have you forsaken me?” because even Jesus reached his limits of understanding sometimes. After his death, a soldier poked Jesus in the side with a weapon and rainbow of Skittles came out. Okay, that didn’t happen; it was blood and water. Mary and Mary Magdalene (not a prostitute) were there as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus down from the cross and wrapped him in a shroud (probably not in Turin) and placed him in his tomb, a cave-type thing. They then rolled a stone in front of it.
Why is this called “Good Friday” when it was clearly a bad fucking day for Jesus? Because Christians reap the benefit of his bad day. Christians are the beneficiaries of his sacrifice as they find redemption in his selfless actions. Also, “good” sometimes translates to “holy” which would make sense. Isn’t that some good shit?
Jesus remained in a guarded tomb, as Nicodemus and Joe of Arimathea came to prepare the body for burial with different ointments and fragrances. And I suppose they then took their kids to baseball practice and ran to Home Depot as that is what people I know do on Saturdays.
Mary and Mary Magdalene (not a prostitute) went to Christ’s tomb and found the stone in front of the opening had been moved. An angel tells them to chill out, that Jesus wasn’t there, and just like the prophecies had said, Jesus was resurrected. Ever the overachiever, Jesus appeared to five people that day:
First- Mary Magdalene (not a prostitute)
Second- Peter (before he became the Vatican)
Third & Fourth- 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus
Fifth- Thomas, who forever became known as “Doubting Thomas” but who wanted his nickname to have been “P. Didymus”
So those are the Holy Week events, more or less. May you find comfort in the story of Christ’s redemption, and may you also find where you hid all the dyed Easter eggs in your house before they start smelling.