Palm Sunday processions around the world marked the beginning of Holy Week.
Christians on April 5 celebrated Jesus Christ's triumphant yet humble entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, waving palm fronds and retracing Jesus' steps. At the same time, however, they were reminded that the day Jesus would go to the cross was just days away.
"As a preacher, I never know what to do with Palm Sunday," said Bob Cornwall, pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church in Troy, Mich., according to his sermon notes. "It's fun to sing and dance, but I know where things lead. Making a big deal about Jesus' triumphal entry seems rather beside the point, when I know that Good Friday is on the horizon."
Holy Week, also referred to as Passion Week, begins on Palm Sunday and continues with Holy Thursday – the Last Supper; Good Friday – the crucifixion; and Easter Sunday – the resurrection.
It is considered by many believers to be the most important week in the history of Christianity, or even of mankind.
"It's a week that rocked the world ... and the world has never been the same [since]," said Jeff Lasseigne, administrative pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California, on Sunday.
And it's a week that has many asking every year "why?"
"In our imaginations, we'll watch as Jesus is nailed to the cross, cries out in agony, and dies a cruel and painful death. And, we'll ask why things happened this way," said Cornwall. "I expect that the answer we receive will be a complicated one. There is no easy answer as to why the cross stands at the center of our faith."
"But, I do hope that our Good Friday reflections will remind us that no matter what we do, even if we abuse God's son, God will not give up on us."
To most Christians, Jesus was destined for the cross.
Harvest Christian Fellowship's lead pastor, Greg Laurie, explained to his congregants, "The crucifixion of Jesus was not a mistake nor was it an afterthought. It was part of the plan of God from the very beginning."
The primary reason Jesus came to earth was atonement, he said during his "Essentials: What Every Christian Needs to Know" sermon.
Moreover, Jesus was not taken against his will, the Harvest pastor and evangelist explained. "This was a man who willingly went, who with one word to the Father could have been delivered of his dilemma."
"God was punishing Jesus as if he had personally committed every wicked deed committed by every wicked sinner. And in doing so, He could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ's perfect life of righteousness."
"This is what we call justification," Laurie noted. "It is not merely the removal of sin; it is the imputing of the righteousness of Christ into our spiritual bank account."