Episode 115 - Introduction to Passion Week - Opening Up the Gospels

Hey I’m Josh Hawkins and this is episode 115 of Opening Up the Gospels. Since episode 85 we’ve been looking at the events of the period of Jesus’ ministry I’ve called the “Late Judean and Perean” period. So much has happened since the beginning of this period in the summer of 28AD. Luke’s Gospel narrates this eight to nine month time after Jesus rejects Galilee and ministers primarily in the southern parts of Israel. We saw Him in Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles in October and the feast of Dedication in December, we saw Him predict His suffering again, and we saw Him teach and continue to bring division to the people of Israel, just as He did up in Galilee. And today, I’m going to give a brief introduction to the final period of His two year ministry, called Passion Week or Holy Week. This last period really is the crescendo of the story of the Gospels. All of the currents that have been flowing since Jesus’ early days of life and ministry come together in just seven days. Because of this, the Gospel accounts detail this last week so much more than any other sequence of events in the last two years of Jesus’ ministry. Take a look at this – we began with the Early Judean Ministry, the time from when Jesus was baptized to His departure up to Galilee. This span of a few months is narrated by Mark 1, Luke 3 and 4, and John 1 through 3. Then we came to the Early Galilean Ministry, which stretches from Jesus’ return to Galilee after the Passover in April in 27AD to early 28AD, when Jesus called the Twelve. Almost an entire year is narrated in Mark 1 and 2, Luke 4 and 5, and John 4 and 5. The next period, the Middle Galilean Period, stretches from the spring of 28AD to the sending of the Twelve, which occurred just before the Passover in April of 28. In this perhaps two month time span, Mark gives us chapters 3 through 6, Luke gives us chapters 6 through 8, and John gives us nothing. Moving on to the Late Galilean Period, we begin with the feeding of the 5,000 in April of 28 and move forward about six months through to the fall of 28, ending with the Transfiguration and the healing of the boy. Mark gives us chapters 6 through 9, Luke gives us chapters 8 and 9, and John gives us chapter 6. Now the Late Judean and Perean Period, spanning from Fall of 28 through April of 29, we have nothing from Mark, chapters 9 through 17 of Luke, and a good chunk from John in chapters 7 through 11. Now look at this – for Passion Week, this last seven days of Jesus’ life, we have the rest of the Gospels – Mark 11 through 16, Luke 17 through 24, John 12 through 21, and of course a similar amount in Matthew’s Gospel. Do you see how much detail the authors of the Gospels give us for this week? It’s astounding. There is so much that Jesus said and did that did not get recorded. I mean, God in the flesh spent two plus years walking around Israel, and all we have are is only about 65,000 Greek words in the four Gospels. If the average person speaks about 150 words per minute, that’s only a little over seven hours of talking. Guys, Jesus walked the earth for over 32 years! Oh, I hope you feel how crazy this is – the apostle Paul wasn’t exaggerating when He used the phrase “the unsearchable riches of Christ” in Ephesians 3. There is just so much about Him that we have yet to discover. This week is sometimes called “Holy Week” or “Passion Week”, “passion” just coming from the Greek word pascho, meaning “to suffer”. Just about all of the material that we’re going to look at in the episodes in the remainder of this series will take place in the span of a week in April of 29AD in and around the city of Jerusalem. We begin with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Sunday, often called “Palm Sunday”. Then on Monday, we see the cursing of the fig tree, the cleansing of the Temple once again, the praising of little children, and the voice of God thundering in the Temple. I can’t wait to develop all of these events for you – they are so significant in light of everything I’ve been developing thus far in the series. Then on Tuesday, we have a busy day beginning with seeing the withered fig tree, then parables and teaching, then many woes to the Pharisees and the Jewish authorities, and closing with Jesus’ predictions of the destruction of the Temple. It’s on Tuesday that Jesus’ public ministry comes to a close. Wednesday is a day of rest, but not without incident – it’s on Wednesday that Judas agrees to betray Jesus. Then Thursday and Friday are by far the most detailed, most significant days where we see Jesus betrayed, arrested, crucified, and buried. I won’t go through all of the events right now in this brief overview, but don’t worry, I’ll take the time to develop everything in detail. As we look at Passion Week, we’ll see some striking things about the way the Gospels narrate it. There have been times throughout our look at the story of Jesus’ life where it can be difficult to see how all the Gospels relate together. But with Passion Week, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John come together like a beautiful symphony and a mighty river. There are some times where the various accounts add or leave out specific details, but as a whole, all four Gospels narrate the breathtaking drama of the climax of the story of the Gospels. I believe this specific portion of the Gospels should grip us and humble us before the majesty of Jesus in a special way. It’s here where we see the highest expression of what God is like up to this point in the story of Scripture. We aren’t supposed to look past the humanity of Jesus and discover God’s love, mercy, and wrath, we are supposed to look AT it. This is the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being revealed to us. It’s so dramatic. And finally, as the story of the Gospels culminates, we’re given so much insight from Jesus Himself about His return, His future kingdom, the continuing covenantal dealings with Israel, and even the role of the Gentiles in the story. So many of the things Jesus says and does during this time are full of theological significance. Throughout this video series, I’ve given you meditation points at the end of many of the episodes – usually just a couple of things for you to think about, look into, or talk to the Lord about throughout the week to help you grow in friendship with Jesus and to fellowship with Him over real memories in His mind as He sits in the heavens. Passion Week is such a unique time in this regard. Jesus has entrusted to us, through the Gospel writers, such a detailed description of these events before His crucifixion in order that we might be ones who savor and cherish the moments that were and are so important to Him. Let me make this personal for a second. In our own lives, the periods of intense drama – either joy or pain – are often the most formative and therefore the most important to us. We tend to talk about these moments with those we’re closest to, trying to communicate how significant they are to us. Think about people who have gone through war or through great suffering. People are often reticent to share details about those experiences because of how significant they are, but when they do actually talk, it matters. Think about a veteran who served in World War 2. Or someone who lived through the Holocaust. They may not tell just anybody about their experience. But when they do open up and tell it, it shows how much it matters to them and how deeply important it was to them. I feel like the same thing can be said about the details that are given to us in Passion Week. We need to have many conversations with the Lord about these events. It’s not enough to stand at a distance and just marvel at it. These moments are not abstract or impersonal to Jesus, because right now, at this very moment, He sits in the heavens, remembering what it was like. Think about it – there is so much we could have known about His life. John says at the end of His gospel that not even all the books in the world could contain the things that could be written about Jesus. We don’t have those things, but we still trust God’s wisdom in giving us what we do have. And so therefore the detail we do have in this last week is there for a reason – because it’s important to Jesus, it therefore should be important to us. As ones who seek to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we should care enough to get the details clear concerning His suffering. I don’t want to be one who stands before Jesus in the age to come, knowing that there were storylines of movies and novels that I knew better than the details surrounding the cross. I don’t want fuzzy, ambiguous knowledge of what happened. My knowledge of the details is not where I want it to be, and I want to grow in it more. And I hope for you, you can come away from these videos with the same desire. This isn’t just about having our sins forgiven – that’s important, but that’s not the end. This is about knowing the details deeply because Christianity is about Jesus, not about us. I think that especially here in the West, the center of gravity of what Christianity is all about has shifted to being primarily about us instead of primarily about Jesus. In many ways, Jesus has become a means to an end, and therefore the cross becomes the means of convenient forgiveness where we feel like we don’t even need to bother with the details. The point of the cross was not primarily to make much of us or to show our worth – it was to show Jesus’ worth and what God is like. It should not be enough for us to have just some fuzzy ambiguous knowledge where we just say “oh, yeah, He went to Jerusalem, then there was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then the Passover, and then He died and rose again. Sweet!” We can’t be content with that. This isn’t about what we will get out of it. It has everything to do with His worth and who He is. We want to relate to Him on His terms, not just what is going to help us tomorrow and make us feel better. To make this personal, think about your best friend or your spouse. Let’s say they go through some horrendous experience. And they tell us the story, but no matter how much they tell us, we just can’t seem to get the details right. Think about how insulting that would be to them. Now Jesus is so kind and so patient, but I do think there has to be a shift in our hearts related to these events with Jesus, the one we love and treasure as Christians. I’m not trying to be intense or heavy here – I just want to help shift your perspective as we begin to look at these events. Let’s love Him and treasure Him for who He is – not just what He can do for us. Well, in the next episode we’ll jump right in and look at what some have called “Palm Sunday” as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey.