Today is the beginning of Holy Week and it marks the final week of Lent. According to the Catholic calendar today is Palm Sunday which celebrates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday which is the time Catholics say the Lord instituted the Mass and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Good Friday which is the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and ending with Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus resurrection. You will see and hear much about Holy Week this week.
I struggle with Holy Week. I’m thankful when people think of Jesus no matter the reason. I’m glad when the affairs of the world are set aside in favor of Godly thoughts. It’s nice when people come to worship on Easter even if we won’t see them again until Christmas. I’m just glad they give a couple of days to the Lord. But I struggle with Holy Week because it is not something God gave us. It is a celebration crafted by the creature, not the Creator.
The pieces of Holy Week are Biblical. Jesus did enter Jerusalem to praise and glory just a week before his death (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-38; John 12:13; Zechariah 9:9). It must have been an exciting time to be in Jerusalem. It was the last time Jesus would enter the city to such a welcome. Jesus did institute the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Jesus was crucified (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21-32; Luke 23:26-42; John 19:17-27). The tomb is empty because he arose from the grave (Matthew 28:26; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6; John 20:1-10). All of the pieces are found in the Bible. What could possibly be wrong about celebrating Holy Week?
Holy Week Itself Is Not in the Bible
One would be hard pressed to find some mention of Holy Week in Scripture. The New Testament extends for about 60 years beyond the death of Jesus yet there is no record of special celebrations for Holy Week or even for Christmas. Religious holidays (holy days) were a feature of the Law of Moses. The Passover (Exodus 12:1-6) and the Day of Atonement (Exodus 16) are but two of numerous feast and celebrations given by God to Israel through Moses. Those holidays, along with the law generally were taken away in Christ (Colossians 2:14).
The only celebration which the church has today is the every week celebration or commemoration of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Instead of once yearly let us commemorate Christ’s sacrifice every week.
Holy Week Is From Man – Not God
This is critical. We are not left to our own imagination when it comes to worship. Not only has God given us direction through commands and the approved examples of inspired apostles, he has specifically warned us against crafting our own doctrine. Jesus strongly rebuked the Pharisees for their defense of human tradition. He quoted Isaiah 29:13 against the religious leaders of the day and censured them for teaching “the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). In a semi-parallel passage Paul admonishes Christians to avoid things which seem to have an “appearance of wisdom in promoting self made religion” but which are actually ideas or concepts developed not by the Divine but by men (Colossians 2:20-23).
While the intent of Holy Week and its attendant ceremonies might be good, the fact is it comes from the mind of man and not from God. We have been warned about man’s doctrines and we know that we mustn’t alter the inspired word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).
Holy Week Promotes Occasional Faith
Beyond the human origins of Holy Week I am also concerned that special holy days promote a faith that is not daily but semiannual. We all know people who attend worship twice a year. They come on Easter and at Christmas. Sometimes we will see them on Mother’s Day because they want to honor their mother. The saddest part is that these people are truly pleased with their faith and satisfied that they given God two or three hours out of a year.
Someone may argue that these people wouldn’t worship with the church at all were it not for holy days but that begs the question: Should we change the faith to accommodate those who are only marginally interested? No! We must not change the faith for any person or for any reason.
Let us all return to the purity of simple Bible teaching. Leave the commandments and doctrines of men behind. Standing together on the rock of truth which is the word of God we can move forward to carry out the Great Commission.