Mourning into Joy | Introduction: Why Observe the Holy Week | Holy Week | Devotional Series | Part 1 of 10

Observing the Holy Week has always been a polarizing ritual for me. Because, I’ve always felt it to be a virtue-signing act. Perhaps that is my own inner crookedness, that I cannot accept that anyone could even observe this ritual genuinely. Secondly, and this used to be my go-to excuse – (that) the scriptures never made it mandatory. But as I grow older, and as I learn to spend more time meditating in the scriptures – I find that it is not I but Christ that leads me into discipline and obedience towards holiness. (Matt 19:26) In other words, it is not by our strength, but by the virtue of God’s grace that we can genuinely observe the Holy Week to its full effect.

Though it is also true that the scripture does not make it an obligation to observe the Holy Week, but it sure does – undeniably builds us up towards it. The Old Testaments swells up to this point. This is the week, when the promise of salvation was about to be materialized. The Devil was to use all its might, the saints were to see the last of the trying times as sinners-unrepentant, and Christ – God, Christ was to lead us through this darkness – like YHWH led the Israelites through the parted Red Sea. The Holy Week, this ordinary week, may not mean much to the world, but for the believer it is nothing less than historic. Apparently, that’s why, all the four Apostles dedicated a major part of the Gospel to this week (alone). Because it was during the course of this week – that Christ changed our fate. He suffered everything we were meant to suffer. And showed us what obedience and perseverance meant. He took the wrath of God for us, and showed us – it is He – who was to come – and paid the full payment of our sins. And most importantly, it was during this week – He demonstrated the Father’s love for us – and bought us the prerequisite holiness to be united with God.

But beyond these reasons – that are grounded in the Biblical past, there is one that I find absolutely convincing. The reason why we should observe the Holy Week is because this is a wonderful opportunity for us to walk with Ekklesia – the body of Christ. David Mathis explains this better. He writes,

“Marking Holy Week is not an obligation, but it is an opportunity. It is a chance to walk with the church, throughout time and through the world, as she walks with her Bridegroom through the most important week in the history of the world. It is a chance to focus our minds on, and seek to intensify our affections for, the most important and timeless realities.” (Pg. 1)

How wonderful that is. I hope dear reader, that you’ll join me in relishing this wonderful opportunity – in walking with Christ and His Church, this Holy Week. Blessed Greetings.

NOTE: Daily Devotions will start from Palm Sunday i.e. 5th April ’20, 9 AM (IST). And end on Easter Sunday i.e. 12th April ’20. You can also subscribe the blog via email to receive the devotionals directly in your inbox.   

Eucharisteo: What does ‘being thankful’ mean in our day-to-day life? A Short Study of Biblical Thanksgiving

The New Testament teaching of ‘being thankful’ is derived from the Greek word “Eucharisteo” meaning, ‘to be grateful’. And it was first demonstrated to us by Christ post feeding 5000 with 5 loaves of bread, and 2 fish. Thereon, we continue to find a few more instances where Christ repeats the practice; the same, afterwards, the Apostles (in emulating Christ) taught others of giving thanks as a practice (in the Epistles). Christ’s demonstration taught us how YWHW was/is sufficient for all our needs, and therefore we ought to be always grateful for His providence. The Apostles’ teachings, taught us how Christ was/is sufficient for the salvation of our souls, and therefore we ought to be always grateful for YHWH’s providence. The two, both Christ’s demonstration, and the Apostles’ teachings aren’t separate and different; but they are one. But here, I’ll focus on the Apostles’ teachings.

The word “Eucharisteo” is further derived from another Greek word “charizomai” or “charis” in short. Charizomai means ‘to grant as a favor’, ‘graciously’, ‘pardon, rescue, deliver, forgive’. In short, Charizomai means grace. Eucharisteo therefore means, ‘being grateful for the grace of God, that despite the abhorrent nature of our sinful existence, He chose to sustains us, so that we could Know Him more, Love Him more, and Serve Him more’ (Eph 5:20, 2:5, 1:4, 1:16-18, John 21:15-17, John 12:26).

What this means is that: thanksgiving is not grounded on the condition of our physical existence. So, thanksgiving does not mean, being thankful for good health, good food, good cloths, good education or career, or family, friends, and et cetera. Although yes, these are good things we can be grateful for – if they are an assist in doing His will. But material and physical goodness are neither the subject nor the object of Biblical thanksgiving.

An interesting thing about the Biblical teaching of thanksgiving is that it is not optional.

  1. IT IS A DUTY: Christ came as the life and light of men, (who) the ones in darkness neither understood Him, nor accept Him; but those who received Him, found life. (Jn 1:4-5, 12-13). And so, since He has made us known our path, and since in this path is joy (Ps 16:11), it becomes a duty to rejoice in Him.
  2. IT IS NOT OPTIONAL: It is a duty to rejoice in Christ, because if we are in Him, and in Him is joy, we cannot escape being joyous. And if joy is an inescapable reality for people who are truthfully in Him, thanksgiving, and being grateful becomes non-optional. Hence, the Bible teaches ‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you’. (1 Th 5:18).

But in reality, this teaching sounds both absurd and impossible. And it is true. It can’t be done. The real life is overwhelmed by problems which runs galore in work, relationships, and what not. But is YHWH mad to burden us with such an impossible task? No. Notice the foundation of thanksgiving being a duty and non-optional, relies on being-in-Christ and obeying-His-Will. Meaning, thanksgiving is not an action-oriented teaching, it is a nature-oriented teaching. The Bible is not teaching, you should be grateful because you’re a Christian. No. The Bible is teaching, you should be grateful because that is the nature of a Christian.

The Biblical teaching of thanksgiving is that: being always thankful of Christ is the character personality of a person who is born-again in Christ.

We learn of this teaching more clearly in Psalm 1. The Psalm demonstrates, how different a blessed person is from the rest. But who is a blessed person? The Apostle Paul teaches: ‘blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin’ (Romans 4:8). So, quintessentially, the blessed person in Psalm 1 is a person who is born-again in Christ. Now, notice the foundation of the nature of his character/personality: he delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night. (Ps 1:2)

Consider how this meets the New Testament teachings of Thanksgiving:

  1. The blessed person from Ps 1, is in Christ. Because he is born-again in Christ. Being in Christ, he is now in the light and now knows and understands the path that YHWH lays down for him. The knowledge of the path, invokes joy and all godly desires in him. And now, he dutifully seeks the Will of God as it grants him great joy
  2. The blessed person from Ps 1, being now given a heart that willfully seeks godliness, is now less bothered by worldly worry. So, even in the midst of great adversities and in all circumstances, he is able to give thanks (without any fail). Because his joy no longer rests in his physical nature, but in seeking the Will of God, by meditating on the Word of God, day and night.

Eucharisteo therefore is not an action, but a personality trait of those born-again in Christ, who joyfully declare their thanksgiving, every second, minute, hour, day, week, and year of their lives. Eucharisteo is not about being grateful for good things; it is about being grateful for the God who alone is good (Mk 10:18). Eucharisteo is not about being grateful for the good gifts alone in life. (Job 2:10) It is about being grateful for our lives that YHWH now considers good because Christ (now) cloths us with His righteousness. (2 Cor 5:21) Eucharisteo is about being grateful to God for not treating us according to what our sin deserves. (Ps 103:10) Eucharisteo is being grateful to God for giving us a heart that is ‘born of the spirit’ without which we would have never know, let alone seek YHWH or His Kingdom. (John 3:3. 3:6)

So … What does being thankful mean, in our day-to-day life?

The blessed person from Psalm 1 is the clear picture of what ‘being thankful’ would practically mean, in our day-to-day life.

  1. You’ll avoid people who aren’t godly, not because you are better than them, but because you find no joy in such company.
  2. You’ll continually seek God, and His will, in prayer and in studying the Bible. Because this is what gives you joy. Because this is what your heart desires. It will further lead you in seeking godly company, and serving the Church (with great integrity) where God has planted you.
  3. You’ll always have a grateful heart for the joy, and for the capacity to be joyful in godliness, that you’ve received from YHWH through Christ.       

But to a majority of us, joy isn’t really the emotion we associate with praying, Bible study, and serving the Church. To a lot many of us, these things comes as a drudgery. And we don’t like hearing about it too, let alone do ourselves or find joy in doing it. We don’t like being told to do these things as well … so, to a lot many of us … this is a task we’d rather skip. And in such circumstances, we’re very colloquially advised: “Oh! Just try harder”. But in doing so, we find ourselves further from joy, and deeper in anxiety.

For the right approach, we’ll look in Psalm 51. David after being convicted of his sin, his next response was not on doing a certain list of things to regain his joy (i.e. trying harder). No. He didn’t do anything, he only prayed. And he prayed right. David’s prayer was one of repentance. He prayed ‘create in me a clean heart’ (Ps 51:10). We see this taught in the New Testament, ‘Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about the things that please the Spirit’ (Rom 8:5, NLT). David prayed for a new heart, a clean heart, a heart, as we have discussed before, that is born of the Spirit. Because from the Godly heart alone comes Godly desires. David prayed to be remade into a new man, made in righteousness and holiness (2 Cor 5:17, Eph 4:24). Why? So that the joy of Salvation could be restored to him. (Ps 51:12) Why? So that he could once again praise and give thanks to God. (Ps 51:15).

Being joyful in God, and living a life of gratitude does include some work, mainly, perseverance in prayer, Bible study, and serving the Church. But most importantly, it takes a heart do be able to do all this. And that heart is not one that we are born with. It is not a heart of strong will, or hard work. But a heart that is born of the Spirit. If we are to secure our joy of Salvation, if we are to live a life of gratitude (which is not dominated by worry or anxiety), we need to have a heart made anew in Christ; we ought to be born-again.