Talk about a spiritual roller coaster! That's what the disciples, family and friends of Jesus experienced during Passover week - the most climactic week in the history of the world.
Fresh from raising the dead, healing the sick and otherwise demonstrating behavior that fit contemporary expectations of the anticipated Messiah, Jesus was on His way to spiritual and national stardom. At least, that's how it looked to His disciples. The holiday crowd cheered as He crossed the city limits into Jerusalem. What more appropriate time than Passover for the Messiah to establish Himself and begin settling scores.
The Passover meal began rather well. The accommodations were very adequate, seating was well planned and the meal itself was as it should be for such a significant religious observance.
But then Jesus began acting like - well, like Jesus. Always full of surprises, He removed His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist and began to wash the disciples' feet. It was an object lesson. "I am acting like a servant to show you how to be a servant," He told them. Then Jesus began talking about betrayal from within the ranks and death, putting a damper on the entire celebration.
The events were a blur after that. Later in the evening, Judas brought the authorities. The formal arrest was made, followed by interrogation, taunting and serious physical abuse. Betrayal surfaced again in the denials of Peter, a member of the inner circle of disciples and arguably one of the bravest.
Urged on by the highest religious leaders, the crowd turned on the Christ. The result was a sentence of death at the hands of the masters of torture, the Roman military. They gambled for His clothing, mocked the notion of His messiahship and planted a painful crown on His head.
The plan for the Messiah to reveal Himself and begin His reign rapidly unraveled in the eyes of those who had placed such hope in Jesus.
The crucifixion was horrific, and it was as if the whole of nature was objecting. The sun shut down, bringing a fearful darkness. An earthquake shook open graves. Things happened that had never happened before around the death-sentence crosses.
Finally, Jesus was dead. There was no mistaking it. Hastily, His body was placed in a donated tomb. Soldiers were posted to make sure no zealot body snatchers disturbed the grave. As far as the disciples and His family were concerned, the party was over. Expectations were dashed.
Those closest to Jesus met in the agreed-upon secret place, behind locked doors. Now they were at risk. There had been no contingency plan in the event that something went wrong.
One loving act remained. The Teacher deserved a decent burial. His bloody, dirty corpse needed to be washed and properly prepared before it was sealed in the tomb, never to be disturbed again. More consternation. The women looking for the body discovered it apparently had been removed and taken somewhere else. Everything was going wrong.
Then everything changed for good. Jesus - more alive than ever - made His appearance. The rest is history. The cowering disciples emerged re-energized. They went public and began telling all who would listen about God's way of messiahship. They stood before kings and religious potentates and literally penetrated every level of society with the message of the good news of the risen Christ.
This newspaper regularly is read by people who have responded to the story and those who have not committed their lives to Christ. Christians know the story. It never grows old; at least it should not. It never loses its excitement; at least it should not.
The message is still as pertinent today as it was 2000 years ago. Christ is the answer for every person. Life is incomplete without a relationship with the living Lord. The One who conquered death has promised eternal life for all who will acknowledge their sins and and accept His sacrifice on a cross on their behalf. If you are reading these words and they apply to you, act on what you know you should do.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).