When is it?
In 2017 it starts on Sunday 9th April and ends on Saturday 15th April. Sunday 16th April is Easter Sunday.
It is a holiday in the U.K. schools will close for (at least) two weeks over the Easter period. Businesses shut on Good Friday to Easter Monday. Retail outlets are closed on Easter Sunday, one of only two days in the year that they are required by law to be closed (the other being Christmas Day, the birth of Christ).
What is it?
Holy Week marks the betrayal, arrest, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It climaxes on Good Friday with Jesus’ crucifixion and ends with the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Palm Sunday 9th April 2017
The sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week; the final week of Lent immediately preceding Easter. On Palm Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s triumphant entrance and arrival into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, where He was welcomed by crowds worshiping Him and laying down palm leaves before Him. This was a customary sign of great respect and homage at the time. The arrival on a donkey is highly symbolic representing the humble arrival of someone in peace (rather than a horse in war).
Palm branches are widely recognized symbol of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.
Wednesday 12th April 2017
Wednesday of Holy Week commemorates Judas Iscariot’s bargain to betray Jesus. On Wednesday Jesus left for the Mount of Olives. Here He foretold the apostles the events of the next several days, including His impending death.
Maundy Thursday 13th April 2017
Thursday of Holy Week is known as Maundy Thursday and is a day Christians commemorate the Last Supper shared by Christ with his disciples in Jerusalem. It was at the Last Supper, a Passover meal, that Jesus established the Holy Communion of breaking the bread and taking the wine and sharing it in remembrance of Him. During the meal Jesus predicts His betrayal and following the meal the disciples went with Jesus to the Mount of Olives where He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. The Temple Guards, guided by Jesus’ disciple Judas Iscariot, arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas received money (30 pieces of silver) (Matthew 26:14–16) for betraying Jesus and told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Following his arrest, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated with little result and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest where the Sanhedrin had assembled (John 18:1–24).
Conflicting testimony against Jesus was brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answered nothing. Finally the high priest adjured Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying “I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?” Jesus testified ambiguously, “You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven.” The high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin concurred with a sentence of death (Matthew 26:57–66).
The Last Supper has been the subject of art for centuries, including the great masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci. The cup used by Jesus is known as the Holy Grail. It has been rumored to exist throughout history with films made based on the search for the Holy Grail. There is no reason to believe the cup would have been outstanding in any way, and was likely a typical drinking vessel, indistinguishable from many others. As a consequence it is unlikely to still be in existence today.
Good Friday 14th April 2017
The next day is Good Friday on which Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial. He was crucified at Calvary on Friday, outside the gates of Jerusalem. It is a public holiday in the UK – schools and businesses are closed. People toast and eat hot cross buns on this day. (I really miss having hot cross buns – they’re delicious.)
The Gospels account the final hours of Christ. In the morning following His arrest, the whole assembly brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (Luke 23:1–2). Pilate authorized the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own law and carry out sentencing. The Jewish leaders replied that they were not allowed, by the Romans, to carry out a sentence of death (John 18:31).
Pilate questioned Jesus and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. On hearing that Jesus was from Galilee Pilate referred the case to King Herod (the ruler of Galilee) who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questioned Jesus but received no answer so Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate told the assembly that neither he nor Herod found Jesus guilty of any charge. Nevertheless, to appease the crowd, Pilate resolved to have Jesus whipped and released (Luke 23:3–16). Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asked for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asked what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demanded, “Crucify him” (Mark 15:6–14). Pilate’s wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day, and she forewarned Pilate to “have nothing to do with this righteous man” (Matthew 27:19). Pilate had Jesus flogged and then brought him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests informed Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death “because he claimed to be God’s son.” This possibility filled Pilate with fear and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know where he came from (John 19:1–9).
Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declared Jesus innocent and washed his own hands in water to show he had no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (Matthew 27:24–26) (and ultimately to keep his job).
The sentence written was “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” And nailed to the cross. Jesus carried His cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the “place of the Skull”, or “Golgotha” in Hebrew and in Latin “Calvary”. There he was crucified along with two criminals (John 19:17–22). Jesus agonized on the cross for six hours. During his last three hours on the cross, from noon to 3 pm, darkness fell over the whole land. Jesus spoke from the cross, saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
With a loud cry, Jesus gave up his spirit. There was an earthquake, tombs broke open, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. This tear signified a removal of restriction from the Temple’s “Holiest of Holies, and that God’s people could now communicate directly with Jesus Christ rather than needing the Temple’s High Priest as an intercessor.The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declared, “Truly this was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45–54).
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus and who had not consented to his condemnation, went to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (Luke 23:50–52). Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus brought about a hundred-pound weight mixture of spices and helped wrap the body of Jesus (John 19:39–40). Pilate asked confirmation from the centurion of whether Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out (John 19:34), and the centurion informed Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:45).
Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock (Matthew 27:59–60) in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Nicodemus (John 3:1) brought myrrh and other spices and placed them in the linen with the body, in keeping with Jewish burial customs (John 19:39–40). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Then they returned home and rested, because The Sabbath was starting (Luke 23:54–56).
Easter Sunday 16th April 2017
Matthew 28:1 “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb”. “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said……….”.(Matt. 28:6). On the third day, known as Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus arose three days after being crucified on the cross at Calvary defeating death and sin so that all who believe in Him may be forgiven and have everlasting life, a life eternal with Him. God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us, so that our sins maybe forgiven.
The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “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.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).
How is it celebrated?
In the UK church services are held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services are held in the morning. There is a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise.
Families gather and have roast dinner together. Chocolate Easter Eggs are usually exchanged but especially for children.
Most shops in the UK are closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.
Easter eggs are specially decorated eggs or chocolate eggs given out to celebrate Easter festival. For Christians the Easter egg is a symbol of the empty tomb. The oldest tradition is to use dyed chicken eggs and paint them. Now the custom is to have chocolate eggs or plastic eggs filled with sweets such as jellybeans (especially if one lives in a hot country). The ‘Easter Bunny’ pays a visit in the early hours of the morning and leaves chocolate eggs lying around in the home or garden. Children excitedly hunt for them as soon as they wake up. Chocolate eggs for breakfast is common place on Easter Sunday!
The House of Fabergé created exquisite jewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.
Want to know more?
This is an incredibly important week for Christians. Our Saviour was crucified but rose from the dead 3 days later. There will be much joy and celebration on Sunday.
If you want to know more or, best of all welcome Jesus into your heart, take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information.