I don’t think it is being overly dramatic to say that the last week of Jesus’ life was the most dramatic of His life. Thirty-three years had steadily, purposefully been moving Him toward this week. Luke tells us that Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” the city where this final week and final drama would be played out. Jesus would not be deterred from this week. The apostle John records these rhetorical questions asked by Jesus on Monday of this last week: “What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” Dramatic? Undoubtedly. As dramatic as this week was, the drama of it extends far beyond the seven days that encapsulate it–even far beyond the 33 years of Jesus’ life on earth. It stretches to eternity past. At that time (which is outside of time, not really time), a plan was put in place. Before Creation, before the Garden of Eden, before Abraham, before Moses and the 10 Commandments, before King David was this plan. All of human history, with its glorious highs and horrific lows, was making its way to this week. So I think we can rightly call it The Week That Changed the World.
This week–as a week–rarely receives the attention it deserves. Traditionally, we celebrate the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, and a week later we celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. In between, some churches have a Maundy Thursday service focusing on the Last Supper and a Good Friday service focusing on the Crucifixion. But beyond these events, we don’t much emphasize The Week That Changed the World. Of course we know stories from that week; we are familiar with the parables that Jesus told that week–some of his most famous. We have cheered Jesus on as He shamed the hypocritical religious leaders by overturning their money-changing tables and driving them out of the temple. Then we have been shamed by our own greed and self-indulgence as we have watched the poor widow enter the temple and give everything she had as an offering to God. Mostly we are all hopeful that we are among the sheep and not the goats that Jesus tells us during this week will be separated. We don’t want to go where the goats are going!
This week has more to offer us than stories taken out of context–a bigger purpose to accomplish. Why do these events occur and not others? How do they fit together? What is Jesus teaching in this last week? As the gospel writers wrote 40 plus years after this week, what did they hope to communicate to their world; what hope did they aspire to ignite in telling what they told? How did they hope the story of the last week would change the way readers would look at Jesus, power, social order, justice, and faith? Please don’t hold out hope we will answer all these questions. Given that John devotes 10 of the 21 chapters of his gospel to this week alone, it is overambitious to believe we can do justice to this week in 5 Sundays; but prayerfully we can answer some of these questions and see a bigger purpose as we look at The Week That Changed the World.
The Week That Changed the World brought about great change. It stirred the entire city of Jerusalem and the millions of people in it and literally shook them when the earth quaked beneath their feet. So even as you are reading this, pray for yourself; pray for our church that change will come to us in these weeks leading up to Easter. We need to change. That is what the sanctification process is all about: change–becoming more and more like Christ. Pray for yourself; pray for our church that we will be stirred and shaken. Where there is lethargy, false assumption, faithlessness, apathy, and so on and so on and so on, pray the the Spirit will stir us and shake us out of it.
For this Sunday, February 28 we will unconventionally look at the Triumphal Entry. I know that doesn’t fit the church calendar/Palm Sunday model, but it does put in motion The Week That Changed the World. The Triumphal Entry is one of the few events mentioned by all four gospel writers, so it is significant. Read it. You will find an account of this event in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40, and John 12:12-19.
I look forward to being changed, stirred, and shaken with you in the weeks ahead.