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Posts tagged ‘Holy Week’

What’s So Holy about Holy Week?

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?

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That was Some Parade!

As Jesus rode along, they spread their clothes on the road.  As Jesus approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole throng of his disciples began rejoicing.  They praised God with a loud voice because of all the mighty things they had seen. Luke 19:36-37 (CEB)

When I was growing up, the big thing in my small Midwestern town was to have a huge Fourth of July celebration, including a long parade.  Sometimes, I was in it with the baton twirlers, Girl Scouts, or marching band, and other times, I sat on the sidelines and watched.  It was fun each time, and we had a crowd made up of people from many neighboring towns.  Actually, they still do the big celebration, although I think it may be toned down from when I was around.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, when we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey.  For someone to ride into town on a donkey was a symbol of peace and goodwill.  Apparently, Pontius Pilate had ridden through town on a great and mighty “stead” a few days earlier, and he was quite pompous, and he entered with a lot of brandishing of swords to show his superior status as the ruler of that area in the Roman Empire.

So, Jesus enters to shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Yet, he enters peacefully and gently on a donkey.  That would be the most peaceful part of the week that followed.  He knew that entering in this way would continue to incite the religious leaders who wanted him to be arrested and out of their realm.

What was the purpose of the parade, anyway?  We may never know, but we DO know that Jesus seemed to want his presence known in Jerusalem.  In the gospel of Luke, he went on to tell many parables about the Kingdom of God and tried to prepare his disciples for his inevitable death on the cross.  He cleansed the temple, once again offending the religious leaders, many who received financial kick-backs from the sales of the sacrificial animals.

Holy Week was not a quiet week for them, and it ended, of course, in Jesus arrest, crucifixion and death.  This parade almost seemed to be his “last hurrah” and a way of getting attention.  Jesus knew what was coming, and he knew that it was the appointed time for him.

As we journey through this Holy Week with Jesus, may we follow his path through it all:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Only then can we truly begin to understand what he endured as he died for our sins and reconciled us to God.  My suggestion would be to read the gospel of Luke each day.  Below is a suggested pattern:

  • Sunday – Luke 19:28-48
  • Monday – Luke 20:1-47
  • Tuesday – Luke 21:1-38
  • Wednesday – Luke 22:1-38
  • Thursday – Luke 22:39-62
  • Friday – Luke 22:63-71; 23:1-25
  • Saturday – Luke 22:26-56
  • Sunday – Luke 24:1-53

Consider taking a few minutes to really ponder what you have read and think about what Jesus did for all of us – for the world.  What are your reactions?  How did you feel?  In what ways did you recognize yourself through the disciples? The crowd? The religious leaders? How will you now celebrate the magnificent message of Easter?

May you have a blessed journey with Jesus this coming week!

The Start of Something Big

“When [Jesus] entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’  The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’ ”  (Matthew 21:10-11 NRSV)

Crowd hysteria – you know what I mean.  It’s when someone famous or maybe even infamous arrives in our area, and tons of people go to catch a glimpse or wave, maybe even with the hope of getting an autograph.  For most of us, it’s probably not a huge deal, but we get caught up in the excitement and want to be part of the “goings on.”

During our life time, it’s probably a very LOW possibility that we will meet someone famous.  I remember being at Disney World in Florida and eating at one of the star restaurants there (because it came with our package) when there was a flurry of activity as a group of people entered the dining area and were seated.  I looked at the man thinking I recognized him, and then realized when I saw the woman with him that it was indeed former President Jimmy Carter with his wife and family.  No one bothered them, and of course, the Secret Service made sure they were able to eat in peace.

I like to bring up the fact that I went to college with Mary Hart who used to host Entertainment Tonight, and she even said “hi” to me once when we passed each other on campus!  But that was pretty much the extent of our encounter.  So, what is it about celebrities that make us all a-twitter?  Is it because we really see that they DO exist or that we watch them on the news or other television shows and they become familiar to us?  Maybe it’s a little envy that we, too, would like to be rich and famous (I don’t REALLY care about being rich or famous, but I would like to have a tenth of the money so I could help others!).

Since Jesus didn’t have the news media, television, and tended not to sign autographs, what was it that led people that day in Jerusalem to throw down their cloaks and palm branches for him to ride into the city as if he was a king?  Were they drawn along in the crowd.  That’s perhaps the most logical explanation since verse 10 shows them asking, “Who is this?”  They didn’t know.  What I didn’t realize in all the years I have preached on this passage (where have I been?) was that on the other side of the city was another parade taking place.

Pilate and his soldiers apparently had a parade and show of power, carrying their swords, decked out in full armor, riding their magnificent steads, and making a statement that Rome was in charge, and the Jewish holiday of Passover was only taking place at the “good will” of the Emperor.  Their show of power and might was to remind the people that they really didn’t have a lot to say about what was happening in their lives or their city or their world.  Rome was in charge.

Jesus’ entrance was not showy, but humble.  He rode a simple donkey, wore no armor, and smiled sadly at the crowds.  He knew that this was only the beginning of something much bigger than Rome’s show, than Passover, than anything that would take place in the week to follow.  This was the last week of his life, and he began it by sort of “thumbing his nose” at the Romans.  The ultimate message was that Rome would never prevail, and that God would.  In the end, God had and still has, the final say.  Good will always overrule evil and oppression even though it might not seem that way.

The biggest thing of all is that God overcame death so that we might have life.  That’s the start of something big that we remember every year at this time.  During Holy Week, I hope we all can journey with Jesus and see what he endured for our sake and how God overcame sin and death.  It makes our Easter celebration even more joyous to have taken the journey through the temple clearing, to the Upper Room, in the Garden of Gethsemane, at the trial of Jesus, and kneeling at the foot of the cross.  May this week be holy in many ways as we journey toward Easter and the celebration of the resurrection.  Amen.

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