“The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!‘” Matthew 21:9 (NRSV)
And so it begins. The Christian year leads up to this week and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection all year. Our liturgical calendar begins with Advent and follows the life of Jesus to the resurrection, ascension, and then Pentecost.
After watching a show on public television last week, I had a whole bunch of new insights or things to think about concerning Holy Week. I suspect that we tend to read far too little into the Holy Week stories and don’t always consider the religious and political atmosphere in Jerusalem during that time.
But even if we take the stories as if they were chronologically in order in the four gospels, we would find inconsistencies. What struck me the most about the show that I watched was how unholy this week really was; of course, it all depends on how you define “holy.” It’s just that Jesus’ actions in upending the money changers in the temple was a deliberate act of defiance toward the temple leaders. As the show asked, why wasn’t he arrested? Normally, the temple guards would have had him thrown in prison within minutes, yet they did nothing.
And then there is Pilate. Why didn’t he just have Jesus killed? Pilate was known to be ruthless and heartless; yet, with Jesus, he hesitated. In the end, he just handed Jesus over to someone else to do the dirty work, although he did have him flogged which was vicious all in itself.
Herod apparently was pretty wimpy in this case, too. His political ambitions may have kept him from taking action because he was waiting to see what Rome would do and didn’t want to rock the boat. It’s hard knowing. He was pretty nasty, too, normally.
Jesus’ arrest and trial were hardly holy. His crucifixion was excruciating, and his death was apparently a big “Whew!” to the religious leaders. What was holy about what we call Holy Week?
Maybe it’s because of the outcome at the end with Jesus being raised from the dead. When we consider how the horrible, evil things took place during that week, we can be sure that those who thought they had prevailed were quite smug and happy with the outcome. The temple leaders probably thought they had saved the Jewish nation in God’s name – who knows!
But once again, God has the last word. Good overcomes evil and life overcomes death. Maybe that’s what makes the week holy – it’s the looking forward to the end result.
What do you think?
How have you viewed Holy Week?
In what ways have you studied what’s behind all the religious, economic, and political moves that were taking place?
How are you ready to expand your thoughts on them?