The climax of Jesus’ ministry was reached during what we now call Passion Week. He had come to be the Lamb of God, and so it was. After entering the City of Jerusalem in triumph (on the day now celebrated as Palm Sunday), Jesus disputed with the authorities in such decisive fashion that they were determined to get rid of him, little knowing that their evil schemes would mysteriously accomplish the redemptive plan of God.
On Thursday night of that week, Jesus ate a Passover meal with his disciples. He explained that his blood was about to be shed as the blood of the “new covenant” foretold by Jeremiah the prophet (Jer. 31:31-34). Judas, for personal reasons unknown to this day, betrayed Jesus into the hands of his enemies, and Jesus was arrested after praying in the Garden of Gethsemane across the valley from Jerusalem. Jesus was first tried by a Jewish court before the religious and civil leaders and was then handed over to the Romans for official action, because they alone were able to impose the death penalty. Both Herod and Pilate examined Jesus and were of a mind to let him go with a stern warning, but were soon pressured by the Jewish authorities and the mob to put him to death. The shrewd but weak-willed Pilate consented and sent Jesus off to be executed. Jesus was scourged to a point of near death and then was publicly crucified. He suffered on the cross from about nine a.m. to three p.m. on Friday (our Good Friday), at which point he died saying, “It is finished,” and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
No one knows exactly what took place in those awesome moments. The New Testament tells us only that it was for us that Jesus died, thus freeing us from the penalty of sin, which is death. Jesus died, not as everyone dies, but for everyone, in the plan of God making atonement for our sins. It is the greatest mystery imaginable. It is enough for us to know that God’s will was accomplished and all we must do is humbly acknowledge our need, bowing before the cross to receive pardon from God.
After being placed in a tomb outside Jerusalem, Jesus’ body lay in peace for the equivalent of three days (according to Jewish reckoning, any part of a day may be counted as a whole day, so Friday through Sunday equaled three days). On Sunday morning the tomb was empty because Jesus had risen from the dead as he had said. He made numerous appearances to his friends, including Mary Magdalene, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, the other apostles, and other unnamed disciples. Death was unable to hold Jesus down because he is the Lord of death–and of life as well. There is no rational explanation for the resurrection of Jesus. It was a display of the power and love of God, who controls all our experiences of life, including death. Forty days later Jesus returned to his heavenly Father, there to await his return in glory to end this age and bring to pass ultimate salvation.