Also known as Palm Sunday
For the past six weeks we have been preparing for this week, Holy Week, during which we remember the dramatic and powerful events leading up to the Crucifixion. Jesus and his disciples had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the solemn Jewish feast of Passover (see: https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/what-is-passover/ ) and he was welcomed by crowds who strewed palm fronds on the ground as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the humblest of animals.
The presence of Jesus in the temple at this solemn season, when huge numbers of pilgrims came there, was bound to make the religious authorities anxious as he challenged many of their practices. Knowing that they were likely to arrest him, Jesus held a final supper with his disciples (known as the Last Supper) on the evening before the Passover celebrations, the day we now call Maundy Thursday. This was when Jesus, having washed their feet, gave to his disciples bread and wine, saying ‘This is my body’ and ‘This is my blood’. We re-enact this every time we partake of Holy Communion. After supper, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane, just outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Here Jesus was arrested and taken to the High Priest’s house.
On Good Friday he was tried by the religious and the civil (Roman) authorities, taken to the site of execution called Golgotha (the place of the skull) and put to death. We believe that by dying, the Son of God, the supreme example of outpoured love, took up himself the sins of all of us, making forgiveness possible for everyone who repents. This is why we call the day ‘Good’. At church we celebrate this in sombre mood with solemn ceremonies, finally leaving the church in silence. The church is stripped of ornament. In many churches a plain wooden cross is erected and venerated. After his death, his body was buried in a nearby tomb by some of his faithful followers.
A prayer of St Thomas More:
O my sweet saviour, who in your undeserved love towards us
so kindly suffered the painful death of the cross,
suffer me not to be cold or lukewarm in love towards you.