Passion Week Perspective

Today is Monday, March 29, 2021. It is the day after Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday began Jesus’ passion week. On this week of all weeks, Christians should be contemplative and prayerful. 

We should contemplate the lesson of the crowds: populism and politics.

On the first day of passion week, hundreds if not thousands of Jews waved palm branches as Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. Jesus rode on a donkey to symbolize peace. But the crowds longed for a Messiah, a political Savior to rescue them from Roman rule. It is likely that some of the same people who made up the Palm Sunday crowd who celebrated Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem also made up the crowd that jeered for Jesus’ death and the freedom of Barrabas. The crowds teach us to examine our hearts. Do we really want Jesus, the real Jesus? Or do we want a populist, political savior who will give voice to our wishes and whims? 

We should contemplate the lesson of the religious leaders: motives. 

During Jesus’ final week, religious leaders questioned Jesus publicly on a number of occasions. These were not honest questions. First century Jerusalem was a shame/honor culture. And these leaders were attempting to trap/shame Jesus. Yet every question asked, Jesus answered wisely, and ultimately silenced his questioners. The religious leaders teach us to question our motives. Do we really want to honor Jesus in our worship? Or are our outward religious appearances designed to make people think we are better than we really are? 

We should contemplate the lesson of the disciples: fearful unbelief.

During Holy Week, the disciples received some of the greatest teachings of Jesus’ ministry. They watched him curse fig trees (Mark 14), silence religious leaders (Luke 20, especially verse 40), and wash their feet (John 13). They heard Jesus’ discourse on the Holy Spirit, love, the Vine and the branches, unity and his High Priestly prayer (John 13-17). Yet they scattered when Jesus was arrested. They observed as Jesus suffered and died. Having received all the teaching and preparation of Jesus, they still misunderstood his Messianic purpose. The disciples teach us to examine our fears and our faith. Do we want only the Jesus who did miracles and attracted crowds? Or do we want the Jesus who had to suffer and die? Are we afraid of following and trusting the Jesus who suffered and died? 

Passion Week reminds us just how much we can get wrong (the crowds), how much we can miss from insincere motives (the religious leaders), and how our fears can lead to unbelief (the disciples). 

We must be ever grateful that Passion Week culminated in the singular event that redeems us from our sinfulness.

It is precisely because we can discover ourselves in the populism of the crowds, the insincerity of the religious leaders, and the fear of the disciples that we need the Christ who died on the cross.

Take some time to read the passion narratives this week (Matthew 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19-24; John 12-21). Contemplate the characters. Meditate on their motives. 

Then gaze at the crucified Christ. 

Remember that it was for our sins that he suffered and died (1 Peter 3:18). 

Reflect on the power of the cross to give you a new heart, redeem your motives, and build your faith. 

May our reflections this week help us see the real Jesus, the one who convicts, suffers, redeems, and restores. 

Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash

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