Season of Lent and Holy Week

Season of Lent and Holy Week

Since February 17, 2021, people have been observing the season of lent, a period of extreme religious tradition. It began on Shrove Tuesday when people burn palms from the Palm Sunday events of last year and place the ashes on their foreheads for Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday officially began the season of Lent, which is the 40 days leading up to Easter. Today, Sunday, March 28, is called Palm Sunday to celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when people hailed Him as a king and placed palm branches in His path. Then follows Holy Monday and Tuesday, remembering the challenges to Jesus by the Pharisees. Spy Wednesday recalls the bargaining of Judas with the Pharisees. Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper, and Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion. Black Saturday tells of Jesus descending into hades. The Holy Week ends with Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection.

The Catholic Church over the centuries has commemorated these days, but they are not biblical commands. The spin-offs from all of this are enormous. Since Lent began on Ash Wednesday, Shrove Tuesday was a feasting time with particular emphasis on pancakes and sweets of all kinds. Some people call it “Fat Tuesday,” and in French, that title is Mardi Gras. The word “lent” comes from “lencten,” an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “spring season.” The use of ashes was a Jewish tradition indicating penitence.

None of these traditions were commanded by Christ or any of the apostles. Even the word “Easter” used in Acts 12:45 in the King James translation is actually a reference to the Passover when the plagues in Egypt freed the Hebrews from slavery. The first-century Church celebrated the resurrection every Sunday, so there was no Sunday deemed more important than the others.

We all need to be reminded of the death and resurrection of Christ. But adding to the biblical account has not only precipitated the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Easter Bunny, decorated eggs, and a variety of celebrations in different cultures.

The Holy Week is a human attempt to remind the world that Jesus came, died, and rose from the grave and that His sacrifice has blessed all of humanity. None of it is wrong, and we applaud the dedication of many who participate in these things. At the same time, we need to realize that God does not enslave us with rituals and added burdens. Jesus said it best “Come all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) We can appreciate cultural expressions of the gospel message in the season of lent, but we must not be oppressed by them.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Celebrate the Resurrection Every Sunday

Celebrate the Resurrection Every SundayPalm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter are all valid historically. All of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are factual, so should we celebrate Easter? We suggest that we should celebrate the resurrection every Sunday.

The communion was established to assist us in doing that (1 Corinthians 11:23-30). The first century Church worshiped every Sunday. Giving (1 Corinthians 16:2) and celebrating the Lord’s Supper to remember the death and resurrection of Christ were part of that worship (Acts 20:7). We should copy their example. It is good that at least once a year the whole world recognizes the activity of God in sending His son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all. We would urge everyone to look into the significance of the resurrection and the witnesses that give credence to the story.

Another aspect of the Easter season is that many human inventions have sprung up around the historical event. Lent was instituted as a way to focus on the Easter event. It was a reminder of the forty days Jesus fasted in the desert as He began His ministry. Abstaining from eating eggs to celebrate Lent resulted in people preserving eggs by boiling them. German Lutherans began decorating the eggs and invented the Easter Hare as a judge of children allowing gifts to be given to good children. Eastern Orthodox believers dyed the eggs red remembering the blood of Christ. The special days of Palm Sunday and Holy Friday were added to aid believers in focusing on the season.

Like Christmas and Santa Claus, these Easter additions to the simple biblical message have a long history, but the Bible message is clear. Passages like 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and Matthew 26:26-28 give us a guide that we can follow no matter what the local traditions. While we may enjoy the human inventions, let us worship as God has called us to worship, and let us do so with understanding and reverence. Celebrate the resurrection every Sunday.
— John N. Clayton ©2019

Excruciating Pain!

Crucifixion Of Jesus
Crucifixion Of Jesus

The ancient Assyrian army would drive a stake into the chest of their enemies impaling them. Then they would plant that stake in the ground to display their victim. They did this both to frighten and to intimidate those who would oppose them.

The ancient Romans further refined this gruesome tactic. Instead of impaling their victims on a stake, they nailed them to the stake. Impaling resulted in quick death, but crucifixion extended the horror. Crucifixion was slow and agonizing torture that sometimes lasted more than a day. It’s from this execution method that we get our word “excruciating”–which literally means “from the cross.” Crucifixions took place in public where people could see the victim and become terrified to go against the Roman government. This torture was used for the worst of criminals.

But one time it was used for the only perfect man who ever lived. He had done nothing wrong. He died for those of us who have sinned. He suffered excruciating pain and public humiliation in a way that demonstrated love and grace. He went willingly to the cross. Even more amazing is the fact that while suffered on the cross he forgave his tormentors. From the cross, he even pardoned a real criminal who hung next to him. He forever made the worst form of torture and execution a symbol that millions proudly hold up, wear, and display. What other execution device is so loved? Why do we call the day of his torture and death “Good” Friday? It’s because of God’s amazing love and grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ. That’s the “crux” of the matter.
–Roland Earnst © 2017