On Sunday we marked the beginning of Passiontide. The time when we turn our faces towards Jerusalem and get ready to celebrate the mystery of Easter. At Celebrate! we walked alongside Jesus and looked once more at the events of Holy Week.

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The first day of Holy Week is the day we call Palm Sunday. As Jesus and his friends walked to Jerusalem, they came to a village nestling in the sun at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus stopped and said to two of his friends. ‘Go into the village. There you will find a donkey. Untie it and bring it to me.’ They did as Jesus had said. A large crowd of people saw Jesus coming along on his donkey and spread their cloaks on the road. Others ran to cut branches from the trees and waved them. The crowds began to shout, ‘Hosanna!’

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The temple was the most important building in Jerusalem. It towered high above the streets and houses. Jesus went into the temple. And what did he find? He found all the noise of the town spilling through its doors. Market stallholders were shouting. Sheep and goats were bleating. Doves were flapping and cooing in their wooden cages. He marched into the temple forecourt and drove out everyone who was buying or selling. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and threw down the benches of those who were selling doves. ‘The scriptures say, “My house should be called a place of prayer. But you have turned it into a den of thieves,”‘ he said.

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Jesus went back to the temple each day to teach the people about God. The Pharisees and the chief priests didn’t like what they heard. Jesus’ stories had hard-hitting messages which they realised were often about them! They put their heads together and thought up a plan to trick Jesus into saying something wrong.

‘We have to pay our taxes to the Roman Emperor. We can’t serve him and God! Let’s see what Jesus has to say about that.’

Jesus flipped the coin over in the palm of his hand. ‘Whose picture and name is on this coin?’ he asked. ‘The Emperor’s,’ they replied. ‘Give to the Emperor what belongs to him and give to God what belongs to God,’ said Jesus.

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On the day we know as Maundy Thursday, Jesus and his friends gathered together in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus bewildered them with his talk of betrayal and death…He surprised them with bread and wine…He humbled them with water and words of love and the Holy Spirit.

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Later in the garden of Gethsemene: Judas with the soldiers and his 30 pieces of silver, Peter with his sword, and Jesus in the midst of it all, patient, and solid and accepting – like a lamb to the slaughter.

Peter’s heart must have burned within him as the cock crowed and he denied his Lord three time whilst the soldiers whipped and spat and sneered at the Son of God.

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On Good Friday, on a lonely hill outside the city Jesus was crucified while soldiers gambled for his robe. At about three o’clock in the afternoon the Son of God cried out in agony, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and died.

Later that day, the disciples took his body down from the cross and placed him in a tomb nearby. A great stone was rolled in front to close it like a locked door.

On Saturday, Holy Saturday, everything was quiet.

Early on Sunday morning, before the sun had risen, the women went to the tomb. They wanted to be near Jesus one last time. But when they arrived, they found that the stone had been rolled away.

The tomb was empty!

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There are family-friendly services throughout Holy Week – why not come along?

Palm Sunday 13th April 10.30am Celebrate! (Meet the donkey at 10am on the Common behind Golden Square and walk to church)
Maundy Thursday 17th April 5.30pm Tea and All Age Worship followed by foot washing
Good Friday 18th April 10am Celebrate!
Easter Day 20th April 10.30am Celebrate!

(With thanks to Sue Doggett and ‘Barnabas in Churches’ whose work our journey was based on)