Jun P. Espina         10 min read
Updated on April 2nd, 2021
One significant question is that if we are genuine born-again Christians, do we need to celebrate or observe the Holy Week? In just a mouse click away, we could Google dozens of the list of religious holidays (or holydays?) The Jewish religion, Islam, Catholicism, Seventh Day Adventism, among other religious groups observe “holidays requiring absence from work beyond existing Statutory Holidays.” What is the meaning of the Christian Holy Week observance among the Catholics and other Christian denominations?
The Holy Week, according to Wikipedia, is “the last week of Lent, and includes Palm Sunday, Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday), Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday (Holy Friday), and Holy Saturday.” Lent, another source tells us that, it “is the 40 day season prior to Easter. It is a penitential time of prayer and fasting.”
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Such Christian denominations as the Baptist, the Lutheran, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Evangelical Fellowship, etc. don’t have religious holidays requiring absence from work.
The Core Teaching Behind the Christian Holy Week Observance
The Holy Week, taught the good Catholics, is the “penitential time of prayer and fasting.” I had a Catholic relative who practiced fasting during the Holy Week and would also look sad the entire week. When I asked her what happened, she was quick to tell me that “Today (Holy Friday), God died.” Okay, Jesus Christ is God the Son and not just Son of God (I posted the same idea on Twitter, and I got a ‘violent reaction’!) and He died over 2,000 years ago. Not only that. He rose from the grave with a glorified body and then ascended to heaven. Now, why should I mourn when my Lord Jesus Christ is alive today? What is Holy Week? My Lord and Savior is alive forever!
I noticed the less educated Filipinos in the remote villages preparing their amulets and other forms of witchcraft on Holy Friday for the witless reason that God is dead. The entire society of demons would assuredly be in full force during the Holy Week since demonism always thrives on the aridity of fanaticism. The Christian Holy Week observance requires a thorough examination based on the Holy Bible if, indeed, God demands its keeping.
The Christian Holy Week Observance: A Misunderstood Religious Celebration?
Baptists and other Christian denominations don’t make the Holy Week a biblical ordinance to observe. One reason is that real Christians make the essence of the Holy Week the core foundation of their faith. It is the entire Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4) that Christ died and rose again. We don’t take the Holy Week as a once-a-year observance but rather the daily content in our meditation—that Christ died and rose again for me to live forever in heaven!
A few ultra-fanatical men would volunteer to be crucified every Holy Week in the Philippines to allegedly “nail their sins.” Such a practice happens for lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. Christ said in John 19:30: “It is finished.” A fake copy of what our Lord did is just Satanic, Satan being the number one glory-grabber. Concerning God’s jealous nature, observe Isaiah 42:8:
While writing this little article, a group of decent and well-educated good Catholics of our village passed by my house praying “Hail Mary” using a loudspeaker. Listening to them, I asked myself: Why, what happened? My Jesus Christ rose from the grave over 2,000 years ago; He won’t die again today, Holy Friday, will He?
The Christian Holy Week observance is Not Fasting or Week of Mourning
They said the Holy Week is “a penitential time of prayer and fasting.” Penitential means a “voluntary self-punishment in order to atone for some wrongdoing.” In short, the Christian Holy Week observance is going to be a remorseful week of reflection and confession (for the Catholics) for everything wrong that we did the whole year before the Holy Week. Am I correct in saying that we need to spend the Holy Week as a time of “voluntary self-punishment in order to atone for some wrongdoing”?
If so, then Christ, to borrow from the apostle Paul, “died needlessly.” Here is the full message of Paul: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal. 2:21) What’s the point? Well, we don’t need a penance or a “voluntary self-punishment” to be forgiven by God, since righteousness does not come through obedience to the Law, otherwise, “Christ died needlessly.”
The Bible said that righteousness comes through faith (in Christ who died for our sins!) and not through obedience to the Law.
JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, NOT BY WORKS
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.
28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3)
OF FASTING AND MOURNING
Fasting is okay; do it if you like—it is even good for the health. But by fasting this Holy Week, you meant penance or voluntary self-punishment to pay off your sins, then you are doing it in pure ignorance of the Holy Scriptures. First, we want to reiterate that the Christian Holy Week observance is not a biblical ordinance or decree for us to observe as in the case of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. You’ll find real believers of Christ on the beaches or other tourist destinations during the Holy Week while most good Catholics are sorrowing for Christ’s struggles with His cross. As born-again Christians, these two just mentioned are the only ordinances we need to observe. The Holy Week is not decreed scripturally for Christ’s followers to keep.
To remember Christ during the Holy Week is a source of awareness for the non-Christians. But, we, born-again believers, believe in Christ Jesus more than the so-called Christian Holy Week observance. For we are doing “Holy Week” in our hearts daily — even hourly. We are happy for our biblical Jesus for He died and rose again to give us eternal life — through our faith in Him as only Lord and Savior! We keep the Holy Week like keeping our loved ones in our hearts every moment — not just once a year!
What about foot washing? Well, a few denominations introduce foot washing but no scripture to qualify it as an ordinance for the Christian believers’ observance.
HOW DID BAPTISM BY IMMERSION AND THE LORD’S SUPPER BECOME AN ORDINANCE?
Roman Catholicism taught Baptism and Communion or Lord’s Supper as sacred and a necessary rite being a part of the salvation of the soul from sin. The Biblical Christians, on the other hand, see Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as representations of the gospel that Christ died and rose again and that they cannot save a single soul at all. “For by grace,” wrote the apostle Paul, “you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) If you think that doing some fasting and mourning is necessary for your spiritual life during the Holy Week to increase your chances of salvation and forgiveness, then you are not a biblical “Christian.” Christ died to save you since you can not save yourself—you can not be saved by your good works (fasting, etc.) “so that no one may boast.”
How did baptism by immersion (not sprinkling, definitely), you may ask, and the Lord’s Supper become an ordinance? Well, firstly, an ordinance means it was required by Christ, taught by the apostles, and practiced by the early Church. Here’s how Christ required His followers to submit to water baptism: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 28:19) As mentioned above, baptism is a type of the Gospel that Christ died and rose again. Observe the following Scripture:
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be [d]done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:3-11)
For the Lord’s Supper, Christ required us to do it “in remembrance of Me.” Then, the apostle Paul interpreted the ordinance by saying “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Compared with the once-a-year Holy Week observance, all we can say is that we do remember Christ’s sufferings and victory “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup” — not just during the Holy Week!
What about the sacrament of communion practiced by the Roman Catholics, is it not the remembrance of Christ’s sufferings? The answer is Yes. The problem is that in Catholicism, the emphasis is not Christ but the power of the priest (and the Catholic Church, in general) to convert the bread into Christ’s real and actual body during the Mass.
This is how Wikipedia puts it: “Transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio, in Greek μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the change of substance by which the bread and the wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus the Christ.”
As it is not biblical, so we cannot accept it. In Mark 7:6-8, Christ taught that if the teaching is man-made (not scriptural), then the worship service is useless.
7 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
— Mark 7:6-8
The following Scripture proves that the born-again Christian doctrine about the Lord’s Supper is indeed biblical. Second, the teaching we call “Transubstantiation” is nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures. Once again, take note that both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are types of the Gospel, which is about the death of Christ for the remission of our sins and His resurrection to confirm all His promises concerning our eternal life with Him in heaven.
—1 Corinthians 11:23-26
The Christian Holy Week Observance is a Daily Memorial for the Genuine Christians
Wrote the apostle Paul to the Galatians that since they still “observe days and months and seasons and years,” he feared that perhaps his spiritual work with them did not bear fruit. In short, we don’t allow ourselves to be enslaved by religious rules concerning special days or months, except that we are encouraged to assemble during the first day of the week, Sunday, to worship Christ corporately. (Acts 20:7; John 20:19; Mk 16:1-2; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Matt. 28:1)
The Christian Holy Week observance is, therefore, not biblical! We keep it in our hearts like clockwork since we love Christ for what He did (for our soul) on the cross. But we don’t need a special holiday to commemorate His death and resurrection. We observe Easter Sunday like being thankful for the long-awaited rain to come. We love the thought of our Lord’s resurrection. But just like the meaning of His death for our soul, we praised Him and treasured His resurrection every tick of the clock and not just every Easter Sunday. The Christian Holy Week observance is meaningless when you start to treasure Christ’s death and resurrection every flash of your waking hours.
All born-again followers of Christ do not celebrate the Christian Holy Week observance the way most Catholics observe. But let us make it clear: all real Christians do not venerate the Holy Week like it has magical or supernatural connection to one’s forgiveness of sins. The Holy Week is real. It was an event that could impossibly be forgotten or deleted from all the ancient chronicles of the world.
Christ died over 2,000 years ago as our ransom because of our inherited and committed sins. And He resurrected thereby confirming His promised eternal life to all who believe and trust in His atoning blood. It is the essence of the Holy Week.
Doing penance during the Holy Week, however, is the one thing we couldn’t find as a biblical doctrine. Doing good works is the stamp of real Christianity, but it is NOT God’s method for saving our sinful souls. You may kneel on the threshold of your church for long hours during the Holy Week. But no single sin of yours would be removed by such self-reproach. Why because the Forgiver of sin is Christ and He demands FAITH (not good works!) that He died on the cross as payment of our sins.
He begs that we believe in His atoning blood shed at Calvary. “Come to Me,” He said. No one is justified by obeying the Law or doing all forms of self-punishment, according to the apostle Paul. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7)
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The Christian Holy Week observance may be celebrated if one likes observing it, but without giving an inkling of any spiritual or magical meaning attached to the season.
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