We’ve arrived at Holy Week. The grand procession is finished – misunderstood but completed. We think we know what God is up to, but we’ll miss the point repeatedly as the divine confronts empire in our systems and our souls.
This “triumphal entry” will be mirrored in Jesus’ shameful exit as he leads a procession of mockers out of the city through the Sheep Gate for his execution. After his beatings, he’s unable even to carry his own cross so a peasant is enlisted, exploited, to carry it for him.
This week should disturb us. This week should be a week of internal contradictions exposed.
- Some will want to keep waving the palm branches, celebrating the divine confrontation of empire, as if we, ourselves, are not complicit in its systems of injustice and oppression.
- Some will skip Holy Week
all together, preferring to jump to the Easter celebration of triumph while neglecting the difficult path of self-examination, self-denial, and death.
- Some may be tempted to focus solely on Jesus’ death and sacrifice, neglecting to take personally our call to take up our cross daily and follow him.
I pray you will not get stuck or take shortcuts but instead will walk this week with Jesus. Walk with your heart, mind, and spirit receptive to the message God is speaking to you.
- Remember that Jesus’ orchestrated entry into Jerusalem directly confronted and mocked the military power and promise of peace through violence demonstrated in Pilate’s annual Passover parade.
- Remember that Jesus first entered Jerusalem and confronted religious hawkers and systems of injustice justified by the religious elite. We are the religious elite of today and Jesus has some tables to overturn in our lives.
- Remember that Jesus’ first act as he gathered with his disciples in the upper room was to stoop down, take hold of mud-encrusted feet, and wash them, serving his followers in love with tender, practical direct action. Then he instructed us to do the same for others.
- Remember that Peter, at first, refused to be served. Recall those places in your life where you prefer control over humility, especially when that control parades as humility in offering to serve another.
- Remember that among that group of friends was one who would betray him with a kiss. That even this internal enemy was embraced and loved; his feet washed, and table fellowship shared. “Having loved them, Jesus loved them right up to the end.”
- Remember that somehow, during all that was going on, the disciples slept during Jesus’ most fervent prayer, when he wrestled with going the distance of loving us through the injustice of it all.
- Remember the turning of the crowds from adulation to shouts of, “Crucify Him!” How fickle we are when things don’t turn out as we expect or plan.
- Remember the mock trial, like so many before and so many today, where the outcome is predetermined, and a death sentence assumed.
- Remember the crowds again, how they shouted for the release of Barabbas, a known rebel who desired the violent overthrow of the Romans. Remember how they chose the way of violence, the way of empire, over the way of the cross.
- Remember Jesus’ humiliating exit, not clothed in only a
loin cloth, as depicted in so many movies, but naked as he was marched outside the city walls.
- Remember his cry from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they don’t understand what they are doing.”
Walk through this week with the seriousness it deserves. Find yourself in the story. Discover what Jesus might be saying to you as each scene unfolds. Do not jump to Easter as if no personal death has happened. Do not suppose there is
Regardless of how you view the cross and resurrection, there is a message here for you. There’s a message here for me. God, in Christ, is reconciling all things. But reconciliation and resurrection must first pass through death:
- Death of our preconceived notions and assumptions.
- Death of our grip on power and control.
- Death of our pride.
- Death of our trust in systems of violence and exploitation.
- Death of our prejudice, unforgiveness, and fears.
But even as we face death, take to heart these words of Jesus:
“Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it