Do you have any traditions for the week leading up to Easter? One small thing I try to do is read what Jesus did each day of the week, starting with Palm Sunday. Like some of you, there are certain details of this final week of Jesus’ ministry that hold special meaning for me. As you begin your own week of remembrance, maybe some of these thoughts will find a home with you, too.
The night before Palm Sunday:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. -John 12:1-3
Before Jesus faced the crowds on what we now know as Palm Sunday, crowds who would both love and hate Him within a week, before He saw His disciples flee in fear, before He took upon Himself all the sin of the world, we find Jesus in the home of beloved friends for one last night of food, conversation and togetherness. Can you imagine it? Most of them probably had no clue what the next week would hold – how everything was about to change — but Jesus did, and He chose to spend the evening around the table, eating and talking with friends. I love that about Him. And, after a year of being secluded from big events, crowded restaurants and even dinners with friends, it means a lot to know Jesus valued His community and time around the table, too.
If we look closely, there’s such a range of emotions on display on Palm Sunday. As Jesus approached the city, Luke 19:41 tells us He wept over it. Wept. Not cry, not sigh, but straight up wept because He wanted the people, His chosen people, to relent from the chase of everything they thought could bring them peace. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city,” Luke writes, “he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes.’” Their peace was among them, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t see it.
As Jesus entered the city, even if their eyes couldn’t see peace standing right in front of them, their hearts were still stirred because of Jesus’ presence among them. In fact, Matthew 21:10 says “the whole city was stirred up.”
Last, but not least, we see off on the side the Pharisees with bruised egos and hardening hearts. “So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’” (John 12:19). As frustrating as the Pharisees are, Jesus wept for them too. There wasn’t a person in that city then or in the world today that He doesn’t love.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
Lynn Kitchens wrote a fantastic –ology story last year about how Jesus spent these days in the market, turning tables in the Synagogue and teaching to crowds. “He lovingly taught His followers about forgiveness, faith, God’s love, and His coming departure and future return. As He spent the days encouraging the crowds, the religious leaders spent the days plotting against Him and openly questioning His authority,” she wrote. Click here to read the rest.
I will add one thing: Last year I read a note in a Wednesday recap that really stuck with me: Jesus may have begun to feel anxious and withdrawn from larger groups, sticking to His 12 closest, maybe even His three best friends. The recap also noted that He may have tried to get a good night’s sleep and then it hit me — His humanity. The idea of Jesus laying down, knowing it would be His last night to sleep, His mission nearing completion, the moment He’d come for finally almost here — that makes my heart ache and swell with thankfulness all at the same time.
Thursday is best known for being the night of the Last Supper.
I wonder if Jesus watched the light that Thursday, the sun creeping down, down, down, knowing with every hour He was getting closer to the beginning of the end. I wonder if He was anxious, and my heart aches at the idea of it. Mark 14:26 tell us that after the meal, they sang a song and then headed out to the Mount of Olives. I don’t think we stop often enough and realize that here, even in the midst of growing anxiousness, Jesus worshipped.
Once in the garden, I think of how desperately Jesus prayed and begged God for another way. “Father, if you are willing,” Jesus prayed, “take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” It makes me think of moments in my life when I’ve been on the floor of my own Gethsemane, pleading for God to intervene and make another way. Selfishly, I wish there was another way, but then I think of Jesus and how His courage to keep going changed everything. He asked for another way, I’ve asked for another way, God told both of us no. I know our losses are very different, but I feel so connected to Jesus as a friend because of this.
“… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2-3
I’ve come to love these two verses in Hebrews, because they talk about why Jesus died on a cross. That joy set before Jesus, the reason why He died on a cross? You. Me. All of us. It was you being reconciled to God. It was eternal victory over death. Because Jesus knew that all of us being fully alive and forgiven was on the other side, He endured the most awful pain and shame, death on a cross. He did it so we could know Him. What a gift — may I never tire of hearing it.
Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, it can be a weird one. It’s quiet and still. Tomorrow (Easter), we celebrate the promise of what’s to come, the bright hope of Jesus and eternal life, but on Saturday we wait.
The gospels tell us that the disciples observed the Sabbath that day. I can imagine they were in shock, grieving and trying to piece together the events of the last couple of days. To me, this Saturday is a reminder of the tension we’re all asked to sit in — in the waiting, the aching, the already but not yet of life. If you feel yourself there right now, you’re not alone. Remember that the best is yet to come. Easter — tomorrow and eternally — they’re both on the way.