Holy Week Meditation
Inspired by a Palm Sunday sermon given by Rev. Cindy Weber to the saints at Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty.
Sunday is for praise. At one end of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator, front man for Imperial Might, comes in with full military escourt, himself riding a white war horse. He brings extra troops from the Syrian legate because these @#5! “Hebrews” or “Jews” are likely to rebel any time they gather in their capital with one of their weird religious/political holy days. And Rome, in her wisdom, has chosen him to keep order in this backwater of the empire. But at the opposite gate of the city, Jesus of Nazareth and some of his followers engage in a little street theatre based on the prophet Zechariah: Jesus enters Jerusalem not on a warhorse, but, in contrast both to Pilate and to David, on the colt of a donkey. The disciples and crowds spread their cloaks on the ground in royal tribute and the crowds sing praises and wave palm branches. The Pharisees and the temple elites, terrified that the Imperial Delegation will notice this royal tribute (that no one is giving Pilate!), try to quiet things down. Jesus laughs at them: If the crowds were to be silent, the very rocks would cry out! Sunday is for praise.
Monday is for anger. After Sunday’s street theatre, Jesus takes nonviolent direct action campaign to the symbolic center of the Domination System: The Temple. He looks around the Court of the Gentiles and sees that what was intended as a “house of prayer for all nations” (“nations” and “gentiles” are the same word in Koine Greek) has been defiled as a place exploitive commerce. The Torah laws specify what must be sacrificed “without blemish,” and the priests are the final arbiters of whether the offerings of the poor pure enough or not. If the answer is “no,” as it almost always is, they can buy a “pure and spotless” offering here in the temple–at extremely inflated prices. A single dove–the prescribed offering for the poor for most sacrifices–costs 20 days wages. Jesus is pissed off! He is furious at the exploitation of the poor and the complete disregard for the Gentiles, both. He makes a whip of cords and uses it to drive out the cattle and oxen; he overturns the tables of the moneychangers, and frees the doves. In horror, the merchants follow their wares out of the temple. Jesus has challenged the entire temple system–judged it and found it wanting (“You see these great stones? I tell you not one will remain on another.”) . Most New Testament scholars agree that it was Jesus’ temple action that led directly to his death at the hands of Powers That Be–But Jesus was furious at the system’s abuse of the poor and outsider. Monday is for anger.
Tuesday is for teaching and for speaking truth to power. On Tuesday, Jesus returned to the Temple and taught the crowds. He could have used this time to attempt to patch things up with the authorities. Instead, he confronts every power group in Jerusalem, confounding them all and leaving them speechless. Powers and Authorities hate it when individuals or groups engage them in propheting truthtelling, saying, like Nathan to David, “Thou are the man!” You’re the one–you are the guilty parties. Like Jesus and the prophets before us, the Church must boldly speak truth to power.” Tuesday is for teaching and speaking truth to power!
Wednesday is a day for listening. On Wednesday, Mary poured oil on Jesus’ head, anointing him for his burial. He’d been telling his followers for some time that this trip to Jerusalem would end in his violent death. Most seemed to ignore him or not understand. But Mary had been listening–and her symbolic action showed that of all Jesus’ disciples, she got it. Wednesday is a day for listening.
Thursday is a day for communing. We all know the story of Maunday Thursday. According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus holds a “Last Supper,” transforming the Passover Seder and reorganizing its symbols to become the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper. According to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus girded himself with a towel and washed his disciples’ feet–performing the work of a servant. These actions were taken in deep communion with his closest followers. Thursday is a day for communing.
Friday is a day for despair. Thursday ended with Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. In the wee hours of Friday, some mock trials–full of illegalities–were held by the Sanhedrin, by Pilate, and by Herod. Then Jesus’ was scourged and crucified between two rebel terrorists (ληστης, NOT κλεπτοι), crushing the hopes of all who followed him. Friday is a day for despair.
Saturday is a day for hiding and mourning. The disciples scattered and fled at Jesus’ arrest lest the authorities arrest and execute them, too. Today we mourn. Any end to that grief will have to await another day–another week. Saturday is a day for hiding and mourning.
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