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Did Jesus know about his trial, death and resurrection? Did it take him by surprise? Will Graham answers some questions about a week that changed the world.
Easter events have are followed by many. However, the religious imaginary is not always able to transmit what is told in the gospels.
From the gospels' account, we know that it was a very special week in Jesus' life.
Will Graham, Evangelical Focus author, preacher and professor at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Cordoba (Spain) helps us delve into the meaning of the Easter week.
Question. Easter starts with the well-known “Palm Sunday”, when Jesus enters in Jerusalem. Do you think this event is a special moment in Jesus' life?
Answer. Yes, on Palm Sunday Jesus enters into Jerusalem to start the last week of his ministry. On Monday he purifies the temple, and on Tuesday, he explicitly announces his death.
We do not know what happens on Wednesday, but they are already preparing everything for what will be the last supper with his disciples. On Thursday and Friday, they celebrate the holy supper, previous to what the days of his Passion will be.
He will be delivered to the Jewish and Roman authorities, to be judged and crucified. And after his death, he will be buried.
Therefore, Easter is very important in Jesus' life. In the context of the history of salvation, Easter is a week in which many prophecies are fulfilled.
Palm Sunday makes prophetic sense when Jesus enters on a donkey, fulfilling the old covenant´s symbolism. Zechariah had prophesied that the king, the Messiah, would enter on a donkey.
It is a special, central moment in Jesus' ministry.
Q. The crowd cheers Jesus saying “Hosanna”, and calls him “Son of David.” What does that mean for the Jewish people of the first century?
A. “Hosanna” means “I ask you to save us.” It is taken form the “Halel” psalms 113 to 118, which were sung by the Jews on Passover.
In a verse of the Psalm 118, we read: “Oh Lord, save us now, I ask you to save us.” There are two words in Hebrew: 'iasha', which means “to save”, and 'sanna', which means “to beg.”
That has been transliterate to the New Testament with the word “Hosanna.” It is therefore a plea to Christ to save his people.
It also meant “salvation has arrived”, so it can be both an affirmation or a request. They ask God to save them, or they affirm that salvation has already come.
Regarding the name “Son of David”, it is a messianic title, very important for the Jews. It is used 17 times in the New Testament, and it is key in the theology of Matthew.
God had prophesied and told David (2 Samuel 7) that one of his children would be a king eternally.
When the New Testament calls Jesus “Son of David”, it is affirming that he is the Messiah that will come, he is the promised Saviour.
There are many in the gospels who call him like that: the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10), two other blind men (Matthew 20) or the woman whose daughter is possessed by the devil.
This title also highlights both the human and divine nature of Christ. His human nature, because he was a descendant of David on the flesh; and spiritual, because the prophecies told to David were fulfilled in him.
Q. Jesus had already had a public ministry for 3 years. To what extent did he know he was approaching the crucial moment in his life and ministry?
A. Jesus knew what was going to happen. Before that week, he had already prophesied about his death. In Matthew 16, when Peter recognised him as the Messiah, he warned them about his future.
Before entering into Jerusalem, we read that Jesus told his disciples he was going to Jerusalem to suffer, die and resurrect. He is preparing the disciples for what is coming.
When we study Jesus' last week, we realise how he prepared everything. The purification of the temple, the Palm Sunday, the parable of the evil farmers, Judas' betrayal prophecy, Peter's denial... Jesus knew what was going to happen, and there is no doubt that he knew he was going to be crucified.
Q. Some historians (and even liberal theologians) have said that Jesus was a failed leader, because, although he entered triumphantly in Jerusalem, he ended up being crucified by the authorities. What does the New Testament teach about this? Was the death of Jesus “a failure”?
A. The answer depends on the spiritual condition of everyone. Liberal theologians, philosophers and historians give an answer which is similar to the one Peter gave in the passage mentioned before.
After saying that Jesus was the Messiah, he warns Jesus not to go to Jerusalem. But he said to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." The point is, that for liberals everything starts with men.
Not matter if it is human knowledge (Hegel), human ethics (Kant), human experience (Schleiermacher), or human anxiety (Heidegger, Sartre). If the starting point is the man, his ethics, his experience, his reasoning, instead of God's revelation, we can affirm that the crucifixion was indeed a failure.
However, there is another interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion, the one given by the New Testament. It says that the crucifixion was a success. Pablo explicitly says in Colossians 2:15 that Jesus triumphed over principalities and powers on the cross.
If someone is an evangelical Christian, he believes in the centrality of the gospel, in God´s revelation... and the crucifixion is glorious, magnificent and powerful.
Jesus already said to his disciples before his crucifixion that he would lay down his life “to take it again.” For those who believe in the testimony of the New Testament, the cross is a glorious step, not a failure, the step the Lord took to save his people.
Q. Finally, what does Jesus' death and resurrection mean for the people of today?
A. The cross means the same today and 2,000 years ago. God has not changed, neither men have. It is true that we live in a digital era, but we still have a fallen nature, we are sinful and corrupted.
Therefore, we should recover the New Testament message, in order to understand what Christ offers us today.
In Romans, Paul explains the gospel perfectly. He shows us that men and women are sinful, not matter if they live in the first century or today. Because of sin, God is, and men need to be forgiven.
The good news of the gospel is that, facing this holy, angry, righteous and incorruptible God, Christ decides to offer himself and go to the cross to appease God's anger, so that we sinners will be forgiven by God's grace.
The words “in Christ” are the most important of all Paul´s message. He spent all his life trying to understand the depth of these two words: the glory of being in Christ.
God's wrath hit Jesus' followers in the Calvary, now we receive God´s mercy, his peace, favour and forgiveness.
The cross is relevant for us today because we have the same problems, but there is an answer: Christ forgives. Those who run to God to be healed, will find mercy, the kiss of God.
There is an excellent book about this: "Knowing God", written by the theologian J.I. Packer. I recommend it to deeply understand more about Christ's sacrifice and its meaning.
Christ offers forgiveness, mercy, blessings, and all the good things God has for us human beings.
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