Maundy Thursday and the Command to Love

You’re probably familiar with Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday—the three most prominent days of Holy Week. But how much do you know about Maundy Thursday (that’s today!)?

Maundy Thursday, also known as “Holy Thursday,” is the Thursday before Easter. It’s a day of anticipation in which we wait for the grim events of Good Friday and the joyous news of Easter Sunday. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, which translates to “commandment.” The particular commandment is found in John 13. Jesus, washing his disciples’ feet on the evening of the Last Supper, says to them:

I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples. — John 13:34-35 (CEV)

(Click to read the entire story.)

jesus-washing-peter-s-feet-1876
(Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet; artist: Ford Madox Brown; 1876)

The act of washing someone else’s feet was and still is an incredibly humbling one, and clearly demonstrates Jesus’ love for his disciples. By lowering himself to the position of a servant in John 13, Jesus demonstrates how we mustn’t cling to a misplaced sense of pride. We are called to love our brothers and sisters as equals in Christ: “I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them” (John 13:16).

Some churches still observe the tradition of footwashing on Maundy Thursday. You might not re-enact Jesus’ ceremonial and symbolic cleansing of feet during this holiday week (although I recommend it to anyone who’s never done so before), but it’s a thought-provoking tradition, connected to an even more important command. This Maundy Thursday, on the eve of the crucifixion, how will you obey Christ’s command to love others?

Posted by Katie

The Bible Says Heaven is for Real

The movie Heaven is for Real (@heavenisforreal) is the latest Hollywood production to incorporate biblical truth into theatrical entertainment, joining recently released movies Son of God (@SonofGodMovie), Noah (@NoahMovie), God’s Not Dead (@GodsNotDeadFilm), and the 35th anniversary edition of Jesus Film (@JESUSfilm) on Blu-ray and DVD (watch online).

Buy your copy of Heaven is for RealThe movie’s companion book is Heaven is for Real: Movie Edition by Todd Burpo (W Publishing, 2014).

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of Colton Burpo, the four-year-old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who, during emergency surgery, slips from consciousness and enters heaven. After surviving the surgery, he describes being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. Colton also shares that he met his sister who miscarried, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. Colton then shares impossible-to-know details about each person he met. Told by his father Todd, but often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is that heaven is a real place, and Jesus really loves children. Heaven Is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.

This special movie edition includes 8 pages of color photographs from the Burpo family and behind-the-scenes photos from the film production. For more resources, see the Heaven is for Real section in the Bible Gateway Store. Ministry resources based on the movie are also available.

Here are portions of Scripture that speak of the reality of heaven:

John 14:1-3: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

John 3:13: No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

Luke 23:42-43: Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Revelation 21:1-4: Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 22:1-5: Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Posted by Jonathan

Regarding the “Jesus Wife Fragment” (Guest Post by David L. Turner)

Gospel of Jesus Wife Papyrus FragmentThe 2014 Easter season coincides with another resurrection of a sort—that of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife (GJW).

Harvard Professor Karen L. King’s original announcement of this find at the International Association of Coptic Studies conference in Rome led to much furor in September 2012. Although other ancient texts mentioned Jesus’ close relationship to Mary Magdalene, this was the first time Jesus was ever said to speak of “my wife.” Scholars were generally skeptical of the fragmentary manuscript due to its mysterious provenance, its small size (8 cm. wide by 4 cm. high, containing eight partial lines, evidently trimmed out of a larger papyrus sheet), its apparently having been written or brushed by a blunt stylus, its likely dependence on phraseology from the Gospel of Thomas (101, 114), and its debatable grammar and spelling. King’s naming this fragmentary text a Gospel (GJW) contributed to the sensationalism.

Now comes news in the Harvard Theological Review (HTR 107.2, Apr 2014) that recent tests, involving both carbon-dating of the manuscript’s papyrus and micro-Raman spectographic analysis of its ink, lead to a mean date of 741 CE for the papyrus and to the finding that the chemical composition of the ink is consistent with other ancient carbon-based inks. Unfortunately, current methods of testing for the date of the ink would destroy the manuscript.

This evidence makes it more difficult for those who have pronounced the manuscript an outright forgery. Nevertheless, the current HTR which contains Prof. King’s critical edition of the text also airs the opposing views of Brown University Egyptology Professor Leo Depuydt, who focuses on alleged grammatical blunders made by a recent writer who had access to a scrap of ancient papyrus. Depuydt goes so far as to say that the fragment “seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch.” Perhaps such a sketch could be called “The Kamikaze Papyrologists”?

Many bloggers and commenters seem to be unaware that Professor King herself believes this fragment tells us nothing about the actual marital status of Jesus. In her view, the text presents a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. The five references to women (line one: “my mother, she has given me life;” line three: “Mary is worthy of it;” line 4: “my wife;” line 5: “she is able to be my disciple;” line 7: “I am with her”) provide evidence that Jesus regarded women, wives, and mothers as his true disciples. Those who are aware of the important role played by women in the ministries of Jesus and Paul may find this assertion a bit underwhelming, but King considers the fragment’s positive view of women as a counter-point to the asceticism and negative view of sexuality which came to be common in ancient Christian communities.

What does all this mean for the Christian faithful who still confess the Apostles’ Creed? Actually, not much. Despite the sensationalism attending this fragment, it is already well known that other late gnostic documents speak of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and that even orthodox mystical exegesis could speak of Jesus’ intimate communion with believers in metaphorical marital language drawn from biblical texts which speak in this way of God and Israel and of Jesus and the church. The fragment’s similarities to the Gospel of Thomas make the gnostic interpretation more likely.

While it may shock the faithful to think of the possibility of their exalted Lord as a married man, consideration of the biblical teaching about his humanity should lessen the jolt. As a Jewish young man in ancient times, Jesus would have been expected to marry and have children. Why he evidently did not do so can be deduced from his teaching in Matthew 19 about marriage, divorce, and singleness. Here Jesus speaks of three kinds of eunuchs, those who have been castrated, those who are congenitally impotent, and those whose personal gifts from God and commitment to God’s kingdom lead them to celibacy. Whatever we find in GJW and other late gnostic texts about Jesus possibly having a wife, we find in the early New Testament fourfold Gospel tradition a person who did not marry due to his radical devotion to his unique mission as the agent of God’s kingdom on earth. That devotion led him all the way to the cross, and it continues to lead his disciples, female and male alike, to selfless kingdom-oriented lifestyles.

Dr. David L. TurnerBIO: David L. Turner (PhD, Hebrew Union College-Cincinnati) is Professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Dr. Turner teaches courses in Biblical Hermeneutics, Greek grammar and exegesis, New Testament, Biblical Theology and book studies. He belongs to the Evangelical Theology Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society for Biblical Literature.

Matthew Baker Matthew TyndaleHe’s the author of the commentaries Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008) and The Gospel of Matthew & The Gospel of Mark: NLT Cornerstone Biblical Commentary (Tyndale House, 2005).

 

Posted by Jonathan

Bible Verses for Holy Week

Here are portions of Scripture to help us focus our attention during each day of Holy Week.

PALM SUNDAY
Philippians 2:5-11: Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

MONDAY
Isaiah 42:1-4: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

TUESDAY
Isaiah 49:1-4: Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”

But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

SPY WEDENSDAY
Matthew 26:14-16: Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

MAUNDY THURSDAY
John 13:12-16: When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

GOOD FRIDAY
Isaiah 53:1-5: Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

HOLY SATURDAY
Romans 6:3-11: Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

EASTER SUNDAY
John 20:1-9: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Also see our Infographic, Holy Week, Day By Day.

Posted by Jonathan

How Do We Know That Jesus Was the Messiah? A Look at Old Testament Prophecy and Jesus

How do we know that Jesus was the Messiah—the long-awaited Son of God who would reconcile humans to their Creator?

The basic tenets of Christianity are so well-known at this point that it’s easy to lose fact of the sheer audacity of their central premise: that a humble man born in a small town thousands of years ago was and is the savior promised by God. How are we to evaluate such a claim? Is there any proof for it?

It’s tempting to imagine that if we just could have seen Jesus, if we could have heard his parables and witnessed his miracles, that the truth of this claim would be obvious. But the truth is, Jesus’ contemporaries—even many of his own followers—struggled with this question just as we do today. Plenty of people who observed Jesus’ actions with their own eyes resisted the idea that he was the Messiah.

One of the most useful ways to test Christianity’s claims about Jesus is to look to the Jewish Scriptures that pre-dated Jesus’ birth. By examining the story of Israel, and by looking carefully at the different prophecies, hints, and foreshadowings that describe the promised Messiah, we can evaluate whether or not Jesus fits the picture of that Messiah.

Author and apologist Lee Strobel has written a great deal about the claims of Christianity, and specifically about the question of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. In this question-and-answer from his devotional newsletter, Lee describes what the Old Testament says about the Messiah—and talks about how that informs our understanding of who Jesus was and is.

Q. I have been wondering about Old Testament prophecies. The New Testament seems to establish that Jesus is the Messiah, for example, but is this proven in the Old Testament?

A. Thanks for your question! The issue about how the Old Testament proves Jesus is the Messiah cannot be done “in and of itself” without the New Testament. Since the last Old Testament book written precedes the time of Jesus by several hundred years, it cannot “prove” what has not yet taken place.

Interestingly, however, some supernatural prophecies that are not Messianic occur entirely within the Old Testament. Perhaps the most remarkable is Isaiah, who prophesied no later than 680 BC many things that Cyrus the Great would accomplish, including decimating empires, allowing the Jewish people to return to their homeland, and a decree that the temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt (Isaiah 44:28-45:13). Isaiah prophesied this more than 80 years before the first exile of Jewish people were taken captive to Babylon (circa 597 BC). Cyrus ruled Persia and the kingdoms he subsequently conquered like Babylon from roughly 560 to 530 BC.

From our vantage point today, we can also see how the Old Testament corresponds to the New Testament through miraculous Messianic prophecy fulfillment. Distinct aspects of the ancestry, birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Messiah were all prophesied in the Old Testament and their historical fulfillment was recorded in the New Testament, primarily the four Gospels. The Old Testament points toward “the anointed one,” which was translated Christos in Greek, the language of the inspired New Testament Scripture and much of the Roman world. Therefore, Christ was the term used by Christians to refer to the Messiah.

Prophecy fulfillment is powerful evidence that validates the credibility and supernatural inspiration of the Old Testament, where human beings are told specific predictions by God to be fulfilled many hundreds of years in the future. While Christian apologists do not arrive at the same number of messianic prophecies, most agree they are numerous. Jewish biblical scholar Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), a convert to Christianity, wrote a classic work affirming there are 456 passages in the Old Testament that refer to the Messiah. His work The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah is accessible for free online at CCEL. Edersheim also stated that there are 558 Messianic references in Jewish rabbinic writings. Popular apologist Josh McDowell inspired a generation of Christians to become interested in prophecy fulfillment by detailing numerous prophecies in his best-seller Evidence That Demands A Verdict (first printing 1972).

One of the better known prophecies is Micah 5:2, which says that “one whose origins are from the days of eternity” would be born in Bethlehem. In the New Testament, King Herod asked his chief priests and teachers of the law where the Messiah (or Christ) was to be born. They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea,” specifically quoting Micah 5:2 (see Matthew 2:1-6).

For more examples of Messianic prophecies fulfilled, see my books The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus, in which I interviewed two Jewish experts and converts to Christianity, Louis Lapides and Dr. Michael Brown. They both give specific and helpful background concerning the Old Testament predictions about the coming of the Messiah. I think you’ll find those discussions helpful. In fact, in The Case for the Real Jesus, Brown establishes that either the Old Testament points toward Jesus as the Messiah or there will never be one – in other words, Jesus fits the “fingerprint” of the prophecies in a manner that nobody else ever did or will be able to do in the future, given the necessary time frame for the appearance of the Messiah.

Keep in mind that Jesus himself claimed he was fulfilling prophecy. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said he has not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, a designation for the Old Testament Scriptures, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). After his resurrection Jesus expounded to the disciples that, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44)!”

While prophecy fulfillment is stunning, foreshadowing is a literary device that anticipates important future events. It demonstrates the beauty and drama of a sophisticated narrative. The world’s great writers use foreshadowing in their masterpieces. This is another captivating way that the Old Testament corresponds to the New Testament. Hebrews 10:1 states that the Old Testament “law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.” The fulfillment of these “types” occurs in the “good things” of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the “antitype (corresponding to something prior)” (Hebrews 10:5-14).

One example an Old Testament “type” or shadow is Abraham, who initially was commanded to sacrifice his only legitimate son Isaac until God saw Abraham’s faithfulness and intervened with a substitutionary sacrifice (Genesis 22). The fulfillment or “antitype” is demonstrated when God the Father, who so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 3:22-25).

Another “type” or foreshadowing of Christ is found in the Passover lamb (see Exodus 11-12). God was to deliver the tenth and final plague upon the land of Egypt, which was to strike the firstborn son of everyone in Egypt as well as livestock. However, God had a way of escape for the persecuted Israelites. They were to take the blood of a one-year-old lamb without defect and place it above and on both sides of the doorframe of their home. God was to bring judgment upon Egypt for their worship of false gods, but when the Lord saw the blood on the doorframe of the Israelites he would pass over and spare the lives of those inside.

We see the New Testament “antitype” in 1 Corinthians 5:7, which says that “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” for our deliverance by his atoning blood shed for our sins.

This essay is taken from Lee Strobel’s Investigating Faith newsletter..

Posted by Andy

Palm Sunday: The King Arrives!

The days leading up to Easter often have an understandably somber feel to them, particularly as we contemplate Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution. It’s easy to forget that the week begins with a joyful event: the Triumphal Entry!

Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, we commemorate Jesus’ celebrated entry into Jerusalem just a few days before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

The “palm” in Palm Sunday refers to the palm branches waved by the adoring Jerusalem crowds who welcomed Jesus and proclaimed him King. The event is commonly referred to as the Triumphal Entry. Here’s the account from Matthew 21:1-11:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The Triumphal Entry is also described in the other three Gospels; see Mark 11:1-11, John 12:12-19, and Luke 19:28-44. While each account tells the same story, each provides a few unique details that, taken together, give us a complete picture of the event.

On the surface, the celebratory events of Palm Sunday make it an unusual starting point for the Easter story. Jesus’ arrival on a lowly donkey might seem almost as strange to us today as it did to the crowds who witnessed it. But Palm Sunday sets the stage for Easter in several important ways.

Most importantly, Jesus’ triumphant entry made abundantly clear Jesus’ claim to be the promised Messiah and Savior. The seemingly odd choice of a donkey as a mount was a specific fulfillment of a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Zechariah, as the account above notes:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Although Jesus’ contemporaries often struggled to make the connection, this was more evidence to anyone with “eyes to see and ears to hear” that He was the long-awaited Savior.

The Triumphal Entry also highlights important truths about both humanity and God. It illuminates the fickle nature of the human heart; the city that eagerly embraced Jesus one day would be calling for his death just a short while later. And it reminds us that God often fulfills His promises in ways we don’t expect: here was Israel’s promised king, but riding on a donkey, not the noble warhorse one might expect. He was a king, but not the one Jerusalem thought it needed—instead of liberating them from Roman oppression through military might, Jesus intended to liberate his people from the oppression of sin… by sacrificing himself. God fulfilled His promise but confounded human assumptions about how He would do so.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the “triumph” of Palm Sunday isn’t entirely overshadowed by grim irony. On the contrary, today is a day of genuine joy—a day when we get a brief glimpse of how things should have been. Here, Jesus is greeted with joy and celebration, praised as a king and welcomed by his people into their city and their lives. The warm welcome won’t last, but at this point in the Gospel story, it’s possible to imagine that it might.

Read the story of the Triumphal Entry and try to imagine what it would’ve been like to witness it in person. The darkness of the crucifixion looms on the horizon, but this is an occasion of celebration nonetheless—the promised king has revealed himself at last to his people! Hallelujah; praise the King!

Image: Palm Sunday fresco by Giotto di Bondone, 1266–1337.

Posted by Andy

Holy Week, Day By Day

The real drama of the Easter season is about to begin: Palm Sunday (that’s this coming Sunday) is the start of what is often called “Holy Week”—the final days leading up to Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection.

The account of Holy Week makes for a very exciting read—partly because of the spiritual importance behind its key events, but also because it’s simply a powerful, emotional story. As Holy Week unfolds, a large cast of characters play out a drama that touches on every extreme of human emotion: joy, hope, fear, betrayal, pain, and grief—and then back to joy with its incredible conclusion on Easter Sunday.

But the story’s depth makes it somewhat complex. To help you track the people, places, and events of Holy Week, here’s a chart that visualizes each of the different strands of the Easter story as they lead up to Easter Sunday:

holy-week-timeline2
(Click the image above for a full-size version. It’s also available in PDF.)

Each line in the chart represents a different person or faction that played a major role in the Easter story. Follow the lines to see how these individuals and groups interacted with each other during the events of Holy Week; read the Bible passages associated with each major event to learn about them. See this post for more information about how to read this timeline and what it does and doesn’t show. (And please note that this chart is an interpretation, drawn from the different Gospel accounts. There’s room for some interpretation in the timing of some of these events.)

This visualization was released under a Creative Commons license, which means that you should feel free to print copies (we recommend printing the PDF) and share them with people at your church.

Posted by Andy

Installation of The Divine Servant Statue

Bible Gateway recently moved into a new office building. In our previous location, a bronze statue titled The Divine Servant, depicting Jesus washing the feet of Peter, was featured in our lobby. It draws its inspiration from Mark 10:43-45 and John 13:4-17. That statue has now been relocated to outside of our new building. We thought you may like to see the installation process:

Posted by Jonathan

Is Easter Based on a Pagan Holiday?

Is the word “Easter” derived from the name of a pagan goddess? Is it appropriate to use that term to refer to the Resurrection day of Jesus Christ—and is the entire Lent season and Easter holiday tainted by association with ancient pagan religion?

We’re asked these questions each year during Lent. We’ve asked Mel Lawrenz, minister-at-large of Elmbrook Church and creative director of The Brook Network, to talk about this issue. His answer is below.

Question: Why do most Christians use the word “Easter” in reference to the Resurrection day of Jesus, when that word comes from a pagan goddess?

First, there never has been a direct association of the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus with the pagan deity. The celebration of the day of resurrection fell on the month of Eastre (West Saxon) or Eostre (Northumbrian). So it was a time of year that was the association, the name of a month. Now that month’s name was probably (not certainly) derived from a goddess of spring. But this association is remote and that is why if you use the word “Easter” in normal speech today, people make no association with ancient pagan religion. Hundreds of millions of Christians use “Easter,” and have done so for centuries, with the meaning of “the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.”

Second, there are many words we use that have long-passed connections in pagan culture or religion, but their meaning has been changed. When we talk about going to church on “Sunday” we don’t have much heartburn about the fact that this day in the Roman calendar was for the worship of the sun. The examples are everywhere. And when we pass into January we mark a new beginning with little concern that the word “January” comes from the Roman god Janus, the god of doorways. Many of the words we use have some peculiar etymology. What matters is what the words mean to us today in normal spoken language.

One last point. Christians have often intentionally placed their symbols and labels on top of pagan symbols and labels because they believe this represents the conquest of the Lordship of Christ. When Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus at the time of the pagan festival of Saturnalia near the winter solstice they were intentionally saying: the Son of God trumps the sun god.— Mel Lawrenz

You can learn more about Mel’s ministry and follow his blog at The Brook Network. He’s the author of the Knowing Him Easter devotional (which runs through Easter Sunday—there’s still time to sign up!), and writes the Everything New email devotional here at Bible Gateway.

Posted by Mel Lawrenz

The Saint John’s Bible: A Work of Art

St Johns Bible illuminationIn 1998, Saint John’s Abbey and University (@CSBSJU) in Collegeville, Minnesota, commissioned calligrapher Donald Jackson in Wales to produce a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible; the first such Bible commissioned by a Benedictine abbey in more than 500 years. Using ancient traditional materials such as hand-ground pigments, Chinese stick ink, goose and turkey quills, and calf-skin vellum, the work of sacred art was 13 years in the making. The result is described as the calligrapher’s Sistine Chapel.

The Saint John’s Bible (@SaintJohnsBible) is the critically-acclaimed $8 million modern/medieval creation by Jackson, one of the world’s foremost Western calligraphers to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords, and an international team of scribes and artists. The colorful artwork from precious minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, vermilion, and malachite, and silver, platinum, and 24-karat gold leaf add light and brilliance to the pages, illuminating the Word of God for a new millennium.

Jackson’s process in preparing for each of the more than 160 passage illuminations was similar to the monastic practice of Lectio Divina: a careful mulling over the text, looking at the details, thinking, meditating, and letting it sink in.

SJBgenesis

Consisting of 1,127 two-foot by three-foot pages in seven volumes (Gospels and Acts completed in May 2002, Pentateuch – August 2003, Psalms – April 2004, Prophets – April 2005, Wisdom Books – July 2006, Historical Books – March 2010, Letters and Revelation – May 2011) with a total weight of more than 165 pounds, the translation used in The Saint John’s Bible is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

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A computer was used to size the text and define line breaks. The pages were laid out in full size spreads with sketches in position. Artists used these layouts to guide their work. Each page is 24 ½” x 15 7/8”, making a two-page spread approximately three feet wide.

Book headings — Each book of the Bible has an illuminated book heading Throughout the Bible, book titles appear on each two-page spread written in English on the left page and in its native translation root (most often Hebrew or in some cases Greek) on the right page.

Verses — Paragraph changes are marked by small colored “kites” alternating in 19th century vermilion water-color (red) and sky blue designer gouache as well as other colors; and the verse numbers appear in the margins. All other verse numbers appear in the line of text and are written with a smaller pen.

Chapter Capitals — The beginning of each chapter begins with a large decorative capital letter. Each decorative capital in the entire project is different.

Script — The calligraphic script was specially designed for The Saint John’s Bible by Donald Jackson. Letters are written in lamp black ink from 19th century Chinese stick inks made from carbon.

Script size — The “x” height describes the size of the script. The small letters are about two millimeters tall. The height of the script is directly proportionate to the size of the quill.

Columns — Each page has two 4 ¾” columns of script. Columns are justified on the left and the right. There are 54 lines per column, and an average of 10.5 words per line.

Marginalia — Small decorative illustrations, often created with gold leaf and other gilding, appear in the margins.

Notations — The official notes from the New Revised Standard Version appear in the lower left and right hand margins of each page.

Beginning 10 minutes into the following video, Jackson demonstrates his calligraphy technique.

The Saint John’s Bible is housed at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (@visitHMML), but is often on tour to museums around the country offering educational and spiritual outreach programs.

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A companion website is Seeing The Word (@SeeingTheWord), a program of guided reflection that makes it possible to pray with images from The Saint John’s Bible.

 

Posted by Jonathan