Some thoughts on Holy Week

jesus-holy-weekSome thoughts on Holy Week from my friend John Tully.

A brief word about Holy Week.  For many of you of a Protestant or Reformed heritage, Holy Week may not carry much significance.  For the Church universal, Holy Week is the most solemn of days.  It might be compared to the High Holy-days that Jews observe in September – October (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

Holy Week is a reminder of the last week of Jesus’ life.  The week begins with an eruption of symbolism in Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem.  It is an eruption because the ruckus Jesus is stirring compels the leaders of the Jews to ask Jesus to tell the crowd to be quiet.  Jesus, riding on a donkey or the foal of a donkey, mimicked how a victorious (Jewish) king would return to Jerusalem in peace.  These leaders were afraid that the unruly crowds would foment a riot thus forcing the evil Romans to quash the melee and who know what else.

In John Chapter 1 we read that Jesus is the Word who was in the beginning with God “and the Word was God”.  “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.”  You recall that in Genesis God created all things by “… and God said…”.  Jesus was the Word God spoke when he brought all things into existence.  I say all this only to emphasize that Jesus never spoke an idle word — for him to speak something could spell disaster if he did not guard what he said.

The next time we see Jesus he is in the temple turning over the tables of the sellers and money changers.  As he does so he quotes from Jeremiah 7:9-11 [again not speaking idly]: ” ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘” My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13 NIV)  Jeremiah prophesying for the LORD says: ” ‘Will you steal and murder commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe” — safe to  do all these detestable things?  Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?…’ ” (Jeremiah 7:9-11 NIV)  As you see, Jesus took very seriously the scripture.

As the week continues a deeply tragic and symbolic event unfolds before unseeing eyes and deaf ears.  At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:35-36).  Those who wanted Jesus dead were in a tight schedule.  Jesus had to die before Passover which is why he was subjected to the “kangaroo court” in the middle of the night — time was of the essence.  Then they trotted Jesus off Pilate to condemn him to death.  As Jesus is hanging on that cross, the Passover lamb was being slaughtered — parallel dramas unfolding before their eyes.  This is mindboggling and yet goes unnoticed by the “rulers, teachers, scribes, Pharisees and elders”, those who should be sensitive to such “scriptural” things.

This Passover lamb was first slain by Moses in Egypt.  Its blood was to be painted on the doorframes of the Hebrews’ houses so that the angel of death would see the blood and “pass over” that house.  It is this same imagery to which Paul refers: “… For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.  Therefore, let us keep the festival.” (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8a NIV)  Jesus’ blood does for us what the Passover lamb’s blood did for the Hebrews in Egypt — the angel of death has “passed over”.

All of what Jesus went through that week would mean absolutely nothing if he did not rise from the dead on the first day of the following week.  His resurrection confirms everything he ever said or did.

I guess this has not been such a “brief” word.

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