The Last Week

Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash

Today is Palm Sunday, but for Jesus it was a week that was just beginning. Palm Sunday is a day that many churches celebrate with waving of palm branches, emulating the people of Biblical times who proclaimed “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” while he entered Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. It is a day when I will be speaking to a group of individuals at an Assisted Living facility. As I wondered about what to speak on, I realized that, of course, I need to speak about the last week of Jesus’ life.

All four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, share the triumphal entry. When Jesus came to Jerusalem the crowds were already being stirred up by the disciples and started chanting together “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You see the crowds welcomed him thinking he was going to be their earthly king. They were expecting a Messiah who was going to deliver them from the Roman rulers and establish the kingdom of Israel once again.

In fact, they did not recognize that they were actually fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

But that same crowd who cried out “Hosanna,” cried out “Crucify Him” when they realized that their dreams were not coming true. So let’s talk about Jesus’ week and the things he did after his triumphal entry.

Jesus honored his Father by visiting the temple.

The first thing we see is Jesus going to the temple. And what does he encounter there? The outer courts were filled with people who were taking advantage of those who came to celebrate the Passover. By selling sacrificial lambs and doves at inflated prices, they were taking advantage of people. Jesus was angry with a righteous anger. It led him to turning over tables and scolding the merchants for their greed and dishonesty, even accusing them of being a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:12-13)

Even while anticipating his death, Jesus did things for others

 Jesus continued to heal. The blind and deaf came to him at the temple and he healed them. He had compassion on the servant who had his ear cut off by Peter, and he healed him. Despite knowing he was facing his death at the end of the week, he still had compassion on the afflicted.

Jesus still taught, sometimes in parables, and sometimes in illustrations, but he used every opportunity to teach his disciples and followers.

He taught in parables still–the parable of the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. He taught about the signs of the end of the age. He taught about the greatest commandment, as well as the seven woes. He taught about prayer as he prayed for himself, his disciples, and all believers.

Jesus honored others with praise.

We read of his visit in Bethany where he was anointed with a costly perfume., possibly by Mary the sister of Lazarus. While she was criticized by others for wasting this costly perfume instead of selling it, he praised her for her act of worship. He pointed out the sacrifice of a poor widow’s offering as something to be praised, rather than to be proud and self-righteous in your giving.

Jesus was still pursued by the Pharisees, who sought to entrap him in any way they could.

The Pharisees questioned his authority when they asked by whom he did his miracles. They tried to trap him by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar. And finally, they tried to find any way they could to take his life.

Jesus spent the Passover with people he loved.

Jesus knew his time was short, but he chose to spend it by washing the disciples’ feet and sharing one last supper with them. Jesus comforted his disciples after the news that he would be killed. He also took the opportunity to talk to them about the coming of the Holy Spirt and the work of the Spirit.   

Jesus chose to have his disciples with him while he went to pray in the garden, even though they slept while he prayed. And as he was greeted by Judas’ kiss, he did not falter in his determination to do God’s will.

Jesus stayed true to his mission

Throughout the false accusations, the mockery, the beatings, and the actual crucifixion, Jesus did not waver in doing God’s will. Knowing that the worst part of all was taking on our sins and becoming the sacrificial lamb by the shedding of his blood, Jesus still stayed faithful and resolute to his purpose.

So that is how Jesus spent his last week here on earth. But the good news through it all? Sunday’s coming!

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11

Agnes Dei – Alleluia

Sometimes it is difficult for me to find the words to say to convey a feeling or emotion so that it can be visualized and experienced the way it was originally. That is the difficulty I have now. During a recent time of worship at church we were led to the throne of God through musical praise. As the musicians prepared our hearts for time with our Creator, I found myself picturing what heaven is going to look like. As I sang Agnes Dei (by Michael W. Smith) with hands raised in worship and tears gathering in my eyes, I could only get an infinitesimal glimpse of what is in store when we reach heaven.

Continue reading

Come as You Are

This morning as I was pondering so many of the difficulties my friend’s are having, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness as I realized all of the needs out there. The diagnosis of breast cancer, the possibility of losing a spouse, the challenges of being a parent, the ravages of grief, the unanswered questions of why God does not answer prayers the way we think should happen–all of these issues came at me like a starship in hyper drive. Life can become overwhelming at times, and even as Christians who know we should put our trust in God, we sometimes become shaky in our faith.

Life is frequently hard–even for those who put their faith and trust in God. I love Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 and often cling to them when my life seems to be in chaos (which is more frequently than I like to admit!). Continue reading

Does Praise and Worship Really Matter?

This morning I was very tempted just to stay home in anticipation of bad weather. Instead, I braved the gloomy skies and headed out to church. I was so blessed to participate in praise and worship and be reminded of how great and good our God really is! There is something refreshing about praising God and taking the focus off of myself and putting it on my Creator instead.

I want to start off this year by talking about why praise and worship is so important to me. Continue reading

Sing Praise

A few weeks ago I attended the church of a friend.  I did not tell her I was coming and as I arrived I entered the nearest door to where I parked.  A man greeted me at the door and I entered a large open area, that was virtually empty. I was not sure where to go, until I saw a young couple entering through double doors ahead.  As I followed, I looked around me.  The room was smaller in size, seating about a hundred, the walls were painted black, and the lighting looked like a theater.  There was a slick, themed background for the praise band.  There was a multitude of open seats and I quickly found one. Continue reading