holy week begins

In the days ahead, Christian communities all over the world will retell stories of Jesus’ final week. These powerful stories include so many different emotions and experiences.  We will hear about poignant teaching and humble service, betrayal and abandonment, fear and confusion, torture and death.

Before everything can unfold, Jesus approaches Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world and the place he and his followers intend to spend the holiday of Passover.  He sends disciples to fetch a young donkey which he then rides into the city as the crowds call out to honor and recognize him, fulfilling what the prophet Zechariah foretold about the arrival of the messiah.  The people wave leafy branches and spread their cloaks in his path, shouting slogans that make it clear they are beginning to think Jesus is the one who will defy Roman rule and establish his own regime. It is a scene of excitement, hope, and rebellion.  As they shout about “the coming kingdom of [their] ancestor David,” the crowd is simply inviting trouble, for the Romans don’t take opposition lightly.

Jesus’ procession is so different from a procession of the Roman rulers. Where they would be riding a mighty horse or chariot, Jesus rides a young donkey.  While the rulers are surrounded by foot soldiers and cavalry demonstrating their military might, Jesus is surrounded by disciples inspired by his teaching, people following after they were healed from sickness or possession, and people on the street who dream of a reign of justice and peace. The soldiers of the Roman rulers carry weapons and shields, while the people pressing forward to welcome Jesus wave leafy branches.  As the Roman rulers enter Jerusalem they are accompanied by the noise of weapons and armies; sounds of intimidation and power.  Jesus is greeted by eager cries from an oppressed people who have begun to hope he will bring God’s freedom to them.

Clearly, in a violent confrontation, the Roman rulers and their troops would easily win. But the confrontation to come is like nothing Rome has prepared for.  The powers of human domination, intimidation, and fear will face the powers of God’s love, forgiveness, and new life. Jesus boldly rides into the city, almost mocking the expectation and assumption that military might will always succeed. 

This week as the stories of Holy Week unfold, we see again how God’s love will ultimately prevail.

Peace in this holy week,


weekly prayer | Jesus enters Jerusalem in Mark 11

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