In one sense, it is ironic to call it Holy Week. There was nothing holy about the scheming of religious leaders to put an innocent man to death in order to silence him. Nor about the spineless agreement of a Roman governor to accommodate the scheme of these leaders. Nor even about the fickleness of the crowds some of whom shouted one day, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and within a week screamed, “Crucify him.”
These unfolding events of that week represent raw, scheming evil. The illegal maneuvering that went on and the brutal results have been registered on the pages of history as the gravest miscarriage of injustice ever perpetrated.
But Christians see it at the same time as the display of the hand of the Eternal God. In his sovereignty turning unspeakable wickedness to holy ends, and making salvation for sinners possible. Jesus was the “lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world.”
To aid our meditations this week, here are notes on what took place each day to provide material for each day’s meditation:
SUNDAY. Jesus’ entered Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. A crowd followed in jubilation and another crowd came out from the city to precede him in his kingly entry. But they had the wrong idea of what his triumph would really be so their celebrations fizzled quickly (Mt 21:1-11; Mk 11:1-10; Lk 19:29-44; Jn 12:12-19)
MONDAY. On his way into Jerusalem early in the morning, Jesus was hungry. He turned to a fig tree along the road for nourishment. Finding it had leaves but no fruit, he cursed it and it withered immediately. This is an enacted parable. It speaks cogently to the peril of fruitlessness for those who sport the trappings of religion. (Matt 21:18-19; Mk 11:12-14).
Also on that day he entered the temple and saw that it had been taken over as a center of commerce badly tainted with greed. With fierce energy he drove out those who sold doves to the pilgrims for sacrifices, and who exchanged worshiper’s secular currency for temple currency – all at an exorbitant profit. Quoting from both Isaiah and Jeremiah, he rebuked their greed with fury.
TUESDAY. Jesus taught in the temple. The religious rulers interrupted his teaching to question him about the source of his authority. He did not answer their question, but instead countered with a question of his own to test their sincerity. (Mt 21:23-27; Mk 11:27-33; Lk 20:1-8)
WEDNESDAY. Judas sneaked off to the religious leaders of the Jews, to strike a bargain. He was ready to sell his teacher into the hands of his enemies. It was an act of infamy. What is a friendship worth? And what does the betrayal of Jesus bring Judas, the perpetrator? (Mt 26:14-16; Mk 14:10-11; Lk 22:3-6)
THURSDAY. Jesus has his last meal with his disciples during which he spoke to their fears and assured them of his return to them in the presence of the Spirit. The Gospels give great detail to this meal. (Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; Lk 22:7-20; Jn 13:1-28; 14:1-16:33)
THURSDAY NIGHT AND FRIDAY. Our Lord was arrested and during the night his trial began, even though a trial during nighttime was against Jewish law. (Mt 26:47-27:26; Mk 14:43-15:15; Lk 22:47-23:25; Jn 18:2-19:26)
FRIDAY. Jesus was crucified and before evening he had surrendered his spirit to the Father. (Mt 27:27-56; Mk 15:16-41; Lk 23:26-49; Jn 19:17-30. He was buried in Joseph’s tomb. (Mt 27:57-66)
SATURDAY. The day of our Lord’s entombment. A day to pray in faith for new life to burst forth, needed so badly everywhere in our world.
Daily meditations on these passages during Holy Week will prepare us for Resurrection Sunday. If we give prayerful attention to them, on that day we will exalt our risen Lord with greater heart, deeper worship, and clearer understanding.