The Climax of Jesus’ Ministry
Holy Week is the climax of Jesus ministry. Everything he did and said was leading up to this great moment where he would take upon himself the sin of the world, die upon the cross for our redemption, and rise victoriously from the dead. The disciples did not fully understand Jesus’ intention until after his resurrection. The people of Jerusalem did not understand what was happening at all. Their expectation was that the Messiah would establish a new government in Jerusalem and overthrow Roman dominion. They did not understand the spiritual character of the kingdom of God, nor how this kingdom would spread throughout the world transforming human lives in bringing us back into an authentic and beautiful relationship with God.
It is important for us as followers of Jesus today to capture the essence of his work. St. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Christianity is not about how we can motivate God to fulfill our purposes, but how God’s purposes can become fulfilled in us.
On this first day of holy week, Jesus entered into Jerusalem in what we refer to as “The Triumphal Entry.” All the people of Jerusalem hailed him as the Messiah. The Pharisees and teachers of the law complained, but Jesus tells them that if the people did not praise him, the rocks themselves would cry out.
On Monday, as Jesus was entering into Jerusalem again, he cursed and unfruitful fig tree. Scholars agree that this tree represents Jerusalem, which is unfruitful in producing righteousness. As Jesus entered the temple he overturned the tables of the money changers and drove them out of the temple courtyard. He quoted the prophet Jeremiah saying that God’s house was to be a house of prayer, but the religious leaders of Jerusalem had turned to God’s house into a den of thieves.
On Tuesday, as they were coming again back into Jerusalem, the disciples noted that the fig tree had withered. Jesus used this to teach his disciples about the power of faith. As he entered the temple, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were waiting for him. They began to challenge his authority and tested him with many questions. The primary testing had to do with the taxes that Caesar demanded from the Jewish people. Jesus responded by saying, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but render unto God the things that are God’s.”
This is the turning point for the crowd. Up to this point, the people were celebrating Jesus as their Messiah in hopes that he would overthrow the Roman government. In this one comment, Jesus reveals his intention. He will not overthrow the Romans, but instead will establish a spiritual kingdom of righteousness.
There is no record of what Jesus did on Wednesday. We assume that he spent time with his friends in Bethany, a nearby village.
Thursday was the Passover feast, and Jesus retired to the Upper Room with his close disciples to share the Passover meal. It was here that Jesus instituted what we refer to as “The Last Supper” or “Holy Communion.” He spoke to his disciples plainly about his pending death and resurrection. He then left the upper room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where after spending many hours in prayer he was arrested.
During the night, a special meeting was called of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling Council. After examining Jesus and hearing his claim that he was indeed the Son of God, they rejected him, and by morning brought him to Pilate to be condemned.
They brought Jesus to Pilate, who upon finding that Jesus was a Galilean sent him to Herod, because Herod was responsible for the Galileans. Herod ridiculed Jesus and sent him back to Pilate for execution. Jesus was then flogged by the Roman soldiers, forced to carry his cross to a hill outside Jerusalem where he was crucified.
Having heard that Jesus would rise from the dead, the disciples in all Jerusalem waited in anticipation to see if what Jesus claimed about himself would actually come true.
Jesus rose from the dead! And after appearing first to the women who had come to embalm his body, he appeared to his own disciples. After Jesus’ resurrection he continued to teach his disciples over a period of 40 days about the kingdom of God.
The overarching theme of Holy Week is that Jesus has done what no one could imagine! He has established a kingdom that far surpasses everything else that has come before. He has overcome death itself, and is able to grant eternal life to all those who come to him. He is also able to do more in our personal lives than we can imagine for ourselves.
Jesus is the risen Messiah of God, and we can trust him with our lives. He desires not only to be our Savior, but the Lord of our lives.