Many of us miss the glory of Passion week because deep down we think we’re the center of what God did two thousand years ago. We think Jesus came and lived and died and was raised mainly for us — for me. We read the Gospels, and write ourselves into the lead role — the star worth everything Jesus had to suffer to have us.
If Jesus is merely a supporting actor in our story, his betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection will still be thrilling, but for the wrong reasons. Holy Week will be moving, but fleeting if we try to make ourselves the center of it. But if we find ourselves small in the story compared to the bigness and power and beauty of God, what moves us will get deeper and sweeter year after year — and last forever. His love for us will take on new meaning — a truer, less vain, more satisfying meaning.
God Loves You Because of God
John Piper explains the danger,
We need to see first and foremost that God is God — that he is perfect and complete in himself, that he is overflowingly happy in the eternal fellowship of the Trinity, and that he does not need us to complete his fullness and is not deficient without us. Rather we are deficient without him.
Unless we begin with God this way, when the gospel comes to us, we will inevitably put ourselves at the center of it. We will feel that our value rather than God’s value is the driving force in the gospel. We will trace the gospel back to God’s need for us instead of tracing it back to the sovereign grace that rescues sinners who need God. (The Pleasures of God)
God did not write Holy Week into history because he was desperate to have you (Acts 17:25), but because loving you, despite how little you deserved his love, would display just how loving he is — how glorious he is. He really does love you — genuine affection, fatherly provision, sacrificial devotion, tender care — but not because you’re great. Because he is great.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus was betrayed for God and his glory. On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified for God. On Easter Sunday, Jesus was raised for God. And in all of it, you were saved by Jesus for God. Our good news is “the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). If we’re humble enough to be the small, hopeless sinner rescued by sovereign grace for his glory, the news gets better, not worse. We will be far happier in a world that’s not centered on us.
Maundy Thursday: Jesus Was Betrayed for God
On the eve of Good Friday, Jesus was preparing to go to the cross for you, but his eyes were fixed on his Father’s glory. He prayed,
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you. . . . I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:1, 4–5)
He was not a lovesick Savior, but an adoring Son — striving to draw the world into his admiration of the Father. He wasn’t dying to make you feel more important, but to show you what’s most important — who is most important.
As he entered the garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed, “He fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’” (Mark 14:35–36). God had called him to die in love for you, but he went to please the Father — to do the Father’s will, to honor and magnify his wisdom, sovereignty, and love.
Good Friday: Jesus Was Crucified for God
Make no mistake, if Jesus is your Lord, Savior, and Treasure, he died for you. He bore your griefs (Isaiah 53:4). He carried your sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). He was pierced for your transgressions (Isaiah 53:5). He was crushed for your iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). By his wounds, you were healed (Isaiah 53:5). Your debt was nailed with him to the cross (Colossians 2:14). And he died because he loved you: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
But he died for you to glorify the Father. He was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). And because Jesus submitted himself to the Father’s will, the Father “has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).
Even when Jesus was exalted, on the other side of his crucifixion, above every other name, he was exalted for the glory of another — for the glory of the Father.
Easter Sunday: Jesus Was Raised for God
Jesus was betrayed to glorify the Father. He was crucified to the glory of God the Father. And when he rose — resurrecting our hope for forgiveness, life, and happiness — he rose for the glory of God. As Paul says, “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
Paul actually says, “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4). The resurrection of Christ was so wrapped up in the glorification of the Father that Paul can say Christ was raised “through” or “by” glory. In the single greatest act of divine intervention — greater than building up mountains or carving out valleys on the earth, greater than placing the stars or forming galaxies, greater than creating man from the dust — the Father was revealing his glory by raising his Son. He raised “the radiance of the glory of God” from the grave into majesty (Hebrews 1:3; see also 1 Peter 1:21). Into glory, and for glory.
You Were Saved for God
That God’s glory is the highest purpose of Holy Week does not at all diminish the good news for you in Christ’s life, betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection. Our flesh desperately wants to be the pearl of greatest price in the gospel story — the treasure hidden in a field for which God sold everything to have. Any unbelieving person could believe a gospel that made us feel like that — that made us look that glorious.
The love in that gospel, however, pales in comparison with the love of God in the true gospel. Instead of fawning over us and our worth, God draws us to himself in love — despite what we are worth because of our sin — to make us a shining forever picture of his worth. He tells the world about his glory through you. He does it through mountains and oceans, stars and galaxies, through heaven and hell, and he does it through you. And because of Christ, he glorifies himself in loving you, not damning you.
Christ was betrayed for the glory of God, because in being betrayed God was able to adopt sinful us as precious sons and daughters “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:5–6). Christ was crucified for the glory of God, because in being crucified he was able to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Christ was raised for the glory of God, because in being raised God made us alive with him (Ephesians 2:5), and shows the world “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us” (Ephesians 2:7).
God’s glory shines brightest in the story of his love for you — unexplainable mercy, sovereign grace, immeasurable kindness, unwavering faithfulness — all of it now working for you to say something breathtaking about him.