Reflections on Holy Week, Part 1

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As someone who tends to show his emotions more than normal it’s very easy to see when I’m excited. Usually these times of excitement are brought about by a great deal of anticipation and the longer it takes for something to happen the more excited I tend to get. The days and months leading up to the birth of my niece were probably the most excited that I have been in a long time, if ever. Not only would there be a child in my family with which, as the uncle, I could have all of the fun and none of the responsibility but, for my immediate family, it marked the beginning of a new chapter and ensured that my family lineage would continue for at least one more generation. The anticipation fueled the excitement and vice versa in a never ending and constantly building cycle.

Imagine that type of anticipation, eagerly awaiting something that you’ve wanted for pretty much your entire life, on a much grander scale and you have Passover week in Jerusalem in the first century AD. Essentially the Jewish people had been conquered nonstop for the past 700+ years. First by the Babylonians and Assyrians who were, in turn, captured by the Persians then the Greeks and finally the Romans. During the period between the Old and New Testaments several leaders claiming to be the Messiah rose up in an attempt to drive out the Roman occupants. All of them had failed and several of them were executed leaving a sense of despair among the Jewish people. They longed to be a free nation again and they anticipated the freedom that the foretold Messiah would bring. So when Jesus entered the city, an event that is recorded in all 4 Gospels, it didn’t go unnoticed. Matthew 21:10 says that “the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘who is this’?” (ESV) Had their dreams finally come true? Had their Messiah finally come? Were they finally going to be free?

As Jesus moved throughout the city during the week it became more and more evident to the people, in particular one of the 12 disciples, Judas, that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah that they had hoped for. He wasn’t interested in political power and, in some cases, outright rejected it. During their last supper together, another event that is recorded in all 4 Gospels, Jesus again reminds his disciples why he came and the significance of what was about to happen. As he broke the bread he told the disciples to “take this and eat; it is my body” (Matthew 26:26, The Voice). After this he took the cup and told them to “take this and drink, all of you: this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Matthew 26:27b-28, The Voice) With these words Jesus confirmed what the people had been beginning to suspect. They wanted political freedom and security but Jesus had come to give them something else. Something much deeper and much more important, spiritual freedom. A plan that had been revealed in Genesis 3 and foretold through the sacrificial system and words of the prophets was about to come to its climax.

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