I’m exhausted this morning. When I crept from my mat before dawn to prepare the family’s first meal, my muscles groaned from waving the heavy palm branches during the hosanna-day just twenty-four hours ago. My voice is a scratchy whisper from all the shouting. When my sandal strap broke while running with the crowd, my foot slipped and now I see dried blood where stones cut the skin. More painful than all this are the maddening thoughts racing through my head: was it worth it? will anything change? was the one riding the donkey really the Messiah? My husband says I’m just another foolish woman, stupidly believing that this dust-covered, itinerant rabbi’s promises will make a difference. The religious leaders are outraged that so many of us pin our hopes on him, but they consider us mere scum anyhow, scorning our penny offerings. Some of my neighbors said Jesus made quite a stir this morning when he cleared the money-hungry vendors out of the temple. My husband heard that Jesus and his followers went back to Bethany last night, out where he could be safe and comfortable with his “rich friends.” What am I to believe? I’m so very tired.
Today begins the last week of Jesus’ life. In our rush to experience the glory of Easter, we’re apt to neglect walking with him through the coming days, thus missing much of what God wants to reveal in us, to us. It was 35 years ago today that we buried our son in Bonn, Germany. Our personal “walk through a last week” had already occurred, but these days were also significant. Daytimes were spent with family who had come from the U.S. so we prepared meals, walked along the Rhine, talked long. But each night when conversations ended and lights dimmed, our aching hearts reflected on the days and hours just past. It was a hard week and good week. A necessary week.
This week is also necessary. Take moments–or longer–each day to read and contemplate what Jesus did, where Jesus went, who Jesus talked with on these final days and nights of his earthly life. Don’t let the familiar words flow through you like a gently flowing brook. Ask God to instead make what you read as powerful as the torrents of Niagara Falls. Use your Holy Spirit-created and directed imagination to put you “in the picture.” Smell the food in Mary and Martha’s kitchen. Feel the water poured over Jesus’ feet by servants. Hear the bleating of the lamb bought for the Passover meal. Wipe the spit that splashes on you at the Sanhedrin’s kangaroo court. How close you will stand at the cross? Don’t miss this journey with Jesus.
While the daily activities of Jesus during this week are difficult to pinpoint in some cases, feel free to use the following thoughts:
Today: Jesus clears the temple (Mark 11:12-19) What needs to be ‘cleared’ from my life so my worship is pure? “Search me, O God, and know my heart. See (reveal) if there is any wicked way in me.”
Tuesday: Jesus anointed at Bethany (Matthew 26:6-13) While what the woman does is culturally unheard of, Jesus affirms her and her extravagant expression of love. How am I affirming those who are “outside the bounds” of the accepted evangelical culture? How am I ‘extravagantly’ living for Jesus? How is my life an offering?
Wednesday: (1) No activities are recorded for this day by the gospel writers, many believing it was simply a day of rest, away from the crowds, a day spent with close friends. What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus? What would you do if you had a day alone with him?
(2) Judas Iscariot actively initiates his ultimate betrayal. (Matthew 26:14-16) Imagine Judas as a member of your family and examine your feelings about him in that relationship. Note from John 13 that Judas was included in the foot washing. What reaction does this arouse in you?
Thursday: (1) Jesus’ last meal with his disciples (John 13:1-17) Describe the emotions of those at supper, especially Peter. (If you’re artistic, use colors to express those emotions.) Have you ever had anyone wash your feet? How did you feel? How would you feel about washing someone else’s feet?
(2) Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) Read the verses several times. What words begin to stand out to you? How does your heart respond to Jesus’ agony? When was the last time you wept in prayer?
Thursday night and Friday: Jesus’ arrest and trial (John 18:1-19:16) Don’t avoid the reality of these hours. Imagine the darkness, noise, anger, motivations. Look at art depicting these hours at http://www.goodsalt.com/search/jesus_arrest.html. Let your eyes linger on what you see. Write a brief caption for each picture.
Friday: (1) Jesus’ crucifixion and death (Luke 23:26-49) Take time today, perhaps in the hours between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., to sit silently with the words of Luke. (If you’re at work, escape for a few minutes to a quiet place.) Engage your heart, not just your head. What new things do you discover about Jesus?
(2) Jesus’ burial (Mark 15:42-47 It is often at the burial of a loved one that death’s finality becomes stark and almost unbearable. Allow yourself to feel the despair of those whom Jesus loved. Write three or four words describing their emotion.
Silent Saturday: In Jerusalem and in our personal spaces, life goes on in the midst of death. For those early followers, it was the Sabbath so attention was more naturally turned to the things of God. Here and now we can easily walk through this day just “planning” for Easter services, dinner, etc. Once again, take time to get away and be silent before God. Take time to mourn as those early followers did. What questions do you think they asked each other? What would you have been asking? What are you asking today about Jesus’ presence or absence? Invite God to reach your heart in a new way in preparation for a glorious Resurrection Sunday.