Thoughts on Holy Week: The Gospel of John

JohnThe synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – tell the story of Jesus’ life in a narrative form. Everything in Mark can be found in either Matthew or Luke, and many events can be found in all three. The Olivet Discourse, for example, occurs during Holy Week and begins in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. John’s Gospel is different. Continue reading

Why We Have Memorials

american-flag-2aToday is Memorial Day in the United States. (Since many of us have a three day weekend, look for Happy Monday on Tuesday this week.) While I’m not suggesting Memorial Day is a religious holiday, there is definitely a biblical basis for memorial. Continue reading

About My Father’s Business

One year as the returned home from Passover, Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was not with their group.  They searched among their relatives and acquantances, then went back to Jerusalem to look some more.  They found the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple, asking questions and reasoning with the temple priests.  “Why have you treated us this way?” Mary demanded.  She expressed her concern and distress as they didn’t know where he was these past two days.  “Did you not realize that I must be about my father’s business?” Jesus replied.  (The ESV says in my father’s house.)  Of course his parents could not understand what he was talking about.  Luke 2:41-52

Jesus thought it was obvious.  Why were they looking for him?  He must be about his father’s business.

If you came up missing, where would people look for you?  Should we go straight to God’s house, or perhaps the office?  Or the golf course?  Or the bar?  Would we be found visiting the sick and afflicted, giving a cup of water to the least of his children? Or would we be somewhere else?

Look at Christ and consider the example.  We must be about our father’s business.

The Last Supper

The banner at the top of this page is da Vinci’s portrait of the Last Supper.  Renaissance Christians knew that Jesus and his disciples were not white with brown hair and blue eyes.  They would not have been sitting in chairs at a table either.  Despite the cultural “anomalies” the most important things are still visible; Jesus broke bread and passed the cup.  That, after all, was the point.

This is Holy Week, the final days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection, but these days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday are about remembering the last precious days that Jesus had with his closest followers.  This would be the last time they celebrated Passover together, and Jesus still had a lessor or two he wanted to share.  During the course of the meal, he gets up from the table and removed his outer robe.  He then ties a towel around his waist, kneels on the floor, and begins washing the disciples feet.  We know what happens to our own feet during the summer months, going about in sandals or flops.  Imagine wearing sandals everyday and walking everywhere you went.  He then asks if they understand why.  Jews did not wash feet; feet are unclean, both literally and religiously to the Jews.  He was their Master and Lord (and maker of heaven and earth) but he was humble like a servant.  If he then, he explains, is willing to wash their feet they should each be doing the same.  It is not a literal command to wash feet, but a lesson about humility and service to others.

Jesus broke bread to remind his followers that his body was broken.  The fruit of the vine in the cup reminds us that his blood was poured out.  He said that without taking part in his body and blood we had no part in him.  But if we receive the one he sends – the Holy Spirit – then we receive him.   And if we receive him, we receive the one who sent him – God the Father.  The Hebrews had been celebrating Passover since they were brought out of Egypt.  When the death angel saw the blood of the sacrifice it “passed over” that home, sparing the first born.  Jesus takes the elements of that meal, and gives them new meaning for his followers.  He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.  When God sees the blood of Jesus on our hearts, his judgement will pass over.

Final Thoughts on Holy Week

jesus_crossThis year for Holy Week I pointed out that Jesus died.  We all know that he was crucified, and was raised to life again, but the real miracle here is that God died.

We asked the question Jesus, sheep or shepherd? That post will be my sermon for Easter Sunday.  I’m preaching twice in the morning.

Another thought was on Jesus’ prayer from the cross.  He didn’t pray just for his followers or his family, but he prayed the prayer of intercession for the people who were crucifying  him.  “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  This is the Christ that we are supposed to be like.

There are some older posts I thought about re-posting, but instead I will just link them here.  He Cannot Save Himself is a poem about the crucifixion.  It is based on the sermon I preached for Easter last year.  Feel free to copy and paste it, print it in your church bulletin, or read it outloud.

Other good topics for Holy Week are Jesus’ Examples: Washing Feet and Passover Becomes the Lord’s Supper.

Palm Sunday: Jesus’ Triumphal Entry

palm_sunday_UPDATE: this entry is from 2009.  A newer post, with much more information, is this one from 2010.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.  The triumphal entry of Jesus was to be the last time he went up to Jerusalem.  He and his desciples were coming into the city to celebrate Passover.  Thousands of Jews from around Aisa Minor, Africa and Europe were doing the same.  Throughout his ministry, some listeners (among them the Zealots) expected Jesus to claim his throne on earth.  Their idea of Messiah was a military leader, and Jesus was on the scene at the right time if he was going to throw the Romans out of Israel.  Many Jews could hear Messianic things in what Jesus said, and here he was riding into Jerusalem.  The crowd shouted “Hosanna,” and spread palm branches and even their coats along the highway.  Hosanna is sort of like our hallelujah, but literally means save now.   Jesus seemed poised to ride ahead into his greatest victory.

As we move into Holy Week, try to imagine the horror of these first century observers as Jesus was arrested and tried.  What many followers witnessed, including his own 12 apsoltles, was a dramatic turnaround from first to last place.  Some of the same Jews who shouted “Hosanna” would be shouting “Crucify him” by the end of the week.  This is that week.

Passover Becomes the Lord’s Supper

When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he was taking an ancient Hebrew tradition and giving it new meaning.  (Matt. 26) For the followers of Jesus, taking communion reminds us that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood shed just like Passover reminded the Jews that the death angel passed over Egypt.  Jesus is the Lamb of God that was slain, much like the sacrificial lamb was slain in the Old Testament; the difference is that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice so that no more is needed. (Heb. 9)

If you listen to this sermon, remember that I’m speaking to middle and high school students.  LOTS of backstory and explanation is given, and I am well aware that I often repeat myself.  I believe the message is the truth of God’s Word, and the Gospel is clearly presented.  Click here to listen (mp3)