“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Holy Week began yesterday with Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered triumphally into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The people hailed his entrance as they shouted Hosannas and praised Jesus as their Lord and their King. They were looking for a savior in the manner that they defined what a savior should be. Jesus was thinking in much bigger terms that we, as humans could ever conceive. We wanted to overthrow Rome, in our own way, we still do. But Jesus came to overthrow sins effects on our lives and on our world. Jesus came offering a better way…
Once Jesus was in Jerusalem the events of the week unfold rather rapidly. On Monday, Jesus will clear the temple. On Tuesday, Jesus will go to the Mt. of Olives. On Wednesday, scripture is silent about what Jesus is up to but then it is Thursday. Thursday is Passover. The time when Jews celebrate the escape from Egypt and began the period in their history where they will leave the bonds of slavery behind and find their own voice and become a people, a nation who God had called to be an example to all the other nations in the world. A beacon of hope, a light in the darkness. They didn’t do so well with that. They got too caught up in looking at what the other nations were doing and wanted what they had. They could not be content with being who God called them to be.
So, here Jesus is at Passover. He knows what is coming. But he still celebrates with his disciples this very important meal. He changes much of the symbolism to reflect what Jesus will accomplish in three short days. He washes his disciple’s feet to indicate how they are to lead…as servants. He breaks bread with them and at some point during the meal he gives them bread and wine blessing these ordinary elements and sharing that they should take these as often as they can in remembrance of Jesus as they will represent Jesus’ body and blood.
When the supper was over Jesus goes to Gethsemane to pray where his disciples will be unable to stay awake and pray with Jesus. Offering their support. But while they spirit was willing, their flesh was tired after a heavy meal. I would imagine that when the guards showed up the sleep left, and fear entered. Jesus is arrested and the disciples flee.
Jesus is tried, beaten, crucified. And his response to this is to forgive the very people who have placed him here. And then there is Holy Saturday and silence. There is nothing but grief, tears, and questions…so many questions. How did this happen? What will we do now? Where can we go? Will they come after us next? And on and on the questions ring through Jesus’ followers. It is the Sabbath.
At dawn on Sunday morning the women go to tend to Jesus’ body. They bring spices and oils. They go while it is still dark and maybe they talk quietly together. Maybe they are lost in their own thoughts. One thing they do wonder about is how will they move the stone? They will need help. And then they are there.
The stone is already rolled away. In fear they look inside. Jesus is not there.
My favorite version of this story is found in John 20. Mary Magdalene has let the disciples know what she has found. They run to see if her story is true…it is and they leave, puzzled. But Mary stays. It is in staying that she will be the first to see Jesus. She will be the first to know that Jesus is alive, that all he taught was truth. She will be commissioned by Jesus to go and tell…to proclaim the message to the disciples. She will be the first…because she stayed. She waited. She didn’t rush away. I am pretty sure there is a message there for us all.
I encourage you all to make the time to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services this week as you prepare for Easter.