Those eight most significant days IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD—and certainly of the human race. Holy Week. The eight days to which all the madness has been marching. The eight days to end all the madness. The eight days when our Savior brought to completion His labors to save us from our sin, to earn for us eternal victory.

Check your bracket:

8) Palm Sunday: Jesus rides into Jerusalem amid one huge pep rally. Crowds gathered for the Feast of the Passover proclaim Him to be the Son of David, the Messiah they’ve all been looking for (Matthew 21:1-11). They shout, “Hosanna,” which means “Do save us now!” and they’re right—he has come to save. But they don’t understand how He will save them. He won’t save as a force who blows out the top-seeded Romans. The Scriptures have said again and again (Isaiah 53:4-6; Psalm 22:1-8, 16-18, 29-31; Psalm 118:22, 25-26) and Jesus Himself has told his disciples repeatedly (Matthew 16:21; 17:9-12, 22-23; 20:18-19) that He will save them by dying at the hands of this very same crowd and their Jewish and Roman accomplices.

7) Holy Monday: Jesus busts the chief priests’ brackets big time! He enters the temple and turns over their tables, sending money rolling everywhere (Mark 11:15-18). The temple was to be kept pure because it symbolized God dwelling with His people, but those in charge didn’t realize that God had now come to dwell with them in the flesh, in the temple of Jesus’ body (John 2:19-21).

6) Holy Tuesday: Jesus’ enemies are not pleased. He’s no longer a Cinderella story from Northern Palestine U. This guy’s flat-out good. And it’s infuriating. Priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees take him on with tricks and traps (Mark 11:27-12:34), and he shuts ’em all down. He’s gotta go!

5) Holy Wednesday: Silence before the storm. Very likely Jesus was again in the temple teaching, but the Scriptures tell us nothing specifically about this day.

And then, the Final Four:

4) Maundy Thursday: We call this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the Holy Triduum, really one continuous devotion, time to be in church each day for the full observance. Jesus knows how powerful the opponent—Satan himself—and how tough the test—His own suffering of hell. So He gives us what we, too, need to struggle against the devil and hell: forgiveness of all sin and complete assurance of His deliverance in His very body and blood (Matthew 26:26-29). Now He goes to what seems certain defeat; He is arrested, put on trial, and says hardly a word in His defense (Mark 14:43-65).

3) Good Friday: It’s no game. It never has been. And all the games we play and all the diversions we find entertaining suddenly pale as the sky goes dark, as the Father abandons His own Son to bear the punishment of the world’s sin—your sin and my sin. It’s not a Big Dance. It’s not Hoopla. It’s God giving it all up—giving it ALL up—to give me heaven. Stop. And think about it.

2) Holy Saturday: A day to do exactly that. Reflect on what has just happened and what that means for us. And then to come to worship this night as the early Christians did, as the cul­min­a­­tion of their whole journey from death to life. A practice in the early church was for new believers who had gone through a year or more instruction in God’s Word to receive baptism on Holy Saturday. Many of our church now celebrate Easter Vigil on this evening, remember­ing that in our baptisms we arose to new life.

1) Easter: In the end, only one is left standing. But because our One, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead, we will also stand with Him forever. In complete, final victory!

As of this writing, the smart pick to come out of the Elite Eight, to go to the Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend and win it all, still has to be Kentucky . . . but that’s just a bet. We know that Jesus came out of the grave, that He conquered every opponent, the last of them being death (I Corinthians 15:26). There’s no question. And that means we who believe in Christ, who have been baptized into His death, will also rise, just as surely “as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.” It’s final. “This is most certainly true.”

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