From the waving of the palms to the rolling of the stone, Holy Week invites us to reflect on the deeper matters of faith by revisiting the story of Jesus, especially giving attention to the events that occurred between Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem and his resurrection.
The overarching message of God’s love and forgiveness is demonstrated through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly, the story we often refer to as the passion narrative is a composite of mini-episodes which contribute to a central plot, a plot that reaches its crescendo with the cross and the empty tomb.
As I reflect on the daily events that occurred during Jesus’ pivotal week in Jerusalem, I noted a few lessons about life and faith that I want to remember throughout the year:
1. Every temple needs cleansing now and then. That includes those temples built of brick and mortar, and those composed of flesh and blood.
2. Lead with the heart of a servant. Servanthood and leadership are often expressed in tandem. Taking up the towel and basin is simultaneously an act of service and an expression of leadership.
3. Love one another! This was Jesus’ mandate. A mandate is different than a prerogative or a preference. It is a command to be obeyed, not an option to be considered.
4. Breaking bread around the table is about much more than bread. Whether we are at the communion table or the dinner table, breaking bread is about sharing life, embracing diversity, and learning to love at a deeper, more sacrificial level. It leads us toward a common mission, durable community, and eternal gratitude.
5. Pray the “prayer of indifference.”
Just as Jesus prayed “Not my will, but your will be done” at least once, we must pray those words continually because our wills are so blatantly stubborn and self-interested.
6. Beware of those who kiss up to you.
Like Judas, they either have an agenda of their own, or they are in cahoots with those plotting a coup.
7. Be faithful to God and yourself.
We will be tempted daily to betray our God, our values, and our character for much less than 30 pieces of silver.
8. Going along with the crowd is always a risky venture.
Politically, socially, or theologically, crowds seldom make wise decisions.
9. Only borrow something when you won’t be needing it very long.
It’s sort of like when Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. It was not an extended stay.
10. Peace emerges from a change within us, and not always a change in our circumstances.
When appearing to his disciples in the upper room following the resurrection, Jesus first words were “Peace be with you” (John 20:21) These words were spoken while Caesar was still on the throne, conspiracy theories abounded, and many disciples were a bundle of anxiety. God’s peace defies circumstances and surpasses our understanding.
Each of the daily stories that comprise the big story of Holy Week has something to teach us about human nature, about sin, and about transformative faith. The lessons we learn from the life of Jesus encourage and equip us to be more effective followers and more courageous disciples.