This week, most of Christendom has been celebrating what is known as ‘holy week’. Holy week typically begins with Palm Sunday, and ends with Easter Sunday.
I have a confession to make to you…’holy week’ has lost its significance and importance in my life.
My intention in telling you this is not to pass judgement on those who may love & celebrate ‘holy week’, but to encourage those who may be on a similar journey. The more that I am awakened to the New Covenant reality of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, and living by His divine life, the less that I have been preoccupied with these external religious holidays. This change has been gradual, yet quite profound. I wondered if something was wrong with me, but those fears began to be put to rest when I was awakened to Paul the apostle’s journey.
The Slander Of Paul
Paul was a very controversial person. It seemed that everywhere he went, religious controversy and turmoil followed him. Entire city riots even erupted as a result of his teachings. Many Jews (both messianic, and non-believing) were opposed to the ministry and teaching of Paul. The common accusation made against him was that he openly taught against, and had disdain for, the law of Moses. This could not be further from the truth.
Although this was a mystery (and still is to many), the entire Old Testament is filled with pictures, analogies, and foreshadows of the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the ultimate reality that fulfills the pictures and shadows of Him. This is not just some theological concept in the mind, it actually has practical application in daily life. Although I could give you hundreds of examples of how the reality of Christ affects the ‘law of Moses’, let me give you one.
In the Old Covenant, the sabbath was one day of rest a week that was set up specifically to be a blessing to mankind and to give us a picture of Jesus Christ. As with most things, mankind’s religious system completely missed this point and made the sabbath into a rigid practice that became a heavy burden. Jesus exposed this in His dialogue with many of the religious leaders about the sabbath. The Old Testament picture of sabbath rest (one day a week) was only a picture of rest, it was not the reality of rest. That is why the writer of Hebrews explicitly said that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God that is greater than what was seen in the Old Testament (Hebrews 4:8-10). Instead of sabbath rest being one day a week that is separated from the rest of the week, in Christ, everyday is a day of rest in Him. He is our rest and He is our sabbath. In Christ, rest moves from being one day in a week, to a daily state of being!
This is just one example among many. Paul understood this and taught about the reality of Christ and how this new reality fulfilled the pictures contained in the law. Special days, like the sabbath, were no longer necessary in light of the reality of the fullness of Christ. As you can imagine, many religious people who did not understand this were deeply offended. They accused Paul of teaching others to not be obedient to the law. This accusation even came by many Jewish people who claimed to believe in Jesus Christ as their messiah.
Thankfully, the Lord exonerated Paul. The gospel of the fullness of the person of Christ that Paul preached became the ‘gospel’ of the New Testament. It is Paul’s letters to the churches that make up the majority of the New Testament.
This gospel proclaimed Jesus Christ as head of the church.
This gospel proclaimed the body of Jesus Christ as being made up of many members (us).
This gospel proclaimed the ‘one new man’ of Jesus Christ (both Head & Body) as being the true temple of God.
This gospel proclaimed the body of Christ as being made up of an entire kingdom of holy priests.
I could go on, but you get the point. The New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ abolished the external temple built by human hands for a greater living one. The New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ abolished the selective priesthood for a greater all inclusive priesthood. The New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ abolished external special holidays (holy-days) for the daily reality of Him who is the personification of a holy-day. Everyday in Christ is a holy day.
If you are a student of church history, you will see this understanding of Jesus Christ begin to be covered up in the second and third centuries. Sadly, the institutionalization of Christianity brought about a return of the pictures and shadows. The reality of the priesthood of all believers began to be replaced by the practice of a ‘selective’ priesthood. The church / temple began to be seen as an external location and building, and not the people of God. It is also during this very season that we see the rise of religious holidays (holy-days).
Why Am I Addressing This?
Some have accused me of stirring up needless debate by talking about this. Others have accused me of teaching others to neglect important Christian celebrations. Trust me, that is not my intention at all. If you want to celebrate Easter & Christmas (or any other religious holy-day) be my guest. I do think that we can learn from history, however. History should cause us to ask questions that, in my opinion, we should be secure enough to ask. If this post causes you to ask these questions, then this post has been successful. With that said, I’d like to conclude this post by asking you the following questions that I believe you will do well to examine:
1. Why didn’t the church in the first century know about or celebrate religious (holy-days) like Christmas or Easter?
2. When did Christmas & Easter begin to be recognized and celebrated?
3. What is the connection between the institutionalization of Christianity and the rise of these religious holy-days?
4. Why does most of the world seem to naturally recognize and acknowledge these holidays?
5. Why do so many people who begin to emphasize and live by an indwelling Christ seem to naturally lose interest in external holy-days like Christmas & Easter?
If you would like to read more about this, please read this article:
For the resurrected life,