April 8, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 19:36-40 (NRSV)
As [Jesus] was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Jesus rightfully reigns over all of creation and all earthly rulers; if one group of his subjects is unable to praise him, another will join in, down to the very stones.
Today, the holiest week on the Christian calendar begins – in fact, we even name it that way: Holy Week. Since the earliest days of Christianity, although every Sunday was celebrated as a feast of Christ’s resurrection, two clusters of feasts started to grow around the events of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection.
One, centered on the day we know as January 6 and soon reaching back to encompass December 25, celebrated Christ’s incarnation as a baby. The other cluster of feasts centered around Easter Day. They soon reached backward as well to incorporate the week of suffering that followed Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, pausing especially to consider the three holy days that span from sundown and the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday’s resurrection glory. And the feasting also moved forward to include a full fifty days of celebration until Pentecost.
Sometime in the 380s, a Christian woman named Egeria traveled from her hometown in Western Europe to Jerusalem and recorded what she saw there, including our earliest description of how Christians celebrated Holy Week by visiting the places where the events of that week took place and worshipping there. She writes of Palm Sunday, for example:
On. . .the Lord’s Day, which begins the Paschal week, and which they call here the Great Week, when all the customary services from cockcrow until morning have taken place in the Anastasis [the site of the empty tomb] and at the Cross, they proceed on the morning of the Lord’s Day according to custom to the greater church, which is called the martyrium. It is called the martyrium because it is in Golgotha behind the Cross, where the Lord suffered.
When we celebrate Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, although in all likelihood we do so in our own congregations and not in Jerusalem, the liturgies we follow are meant to help us imagine ourselves there with Jesus, walking the way of the Cross. It has long been customary in many places to celebrate Palm Sunday not only as a memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry, but also of the suffering he endured during this holiest week. Today’s reading reminds us of the triumph; tomorrow’s will remind us of the suffering.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey’s colt which he’s asked the disciples to temporarily commandeer for him, a great multitude of those who follow him begin to cry out with blessings from the Psalms. While we associate these words today with cute parades of children waving palm branches, the entire event—the procession, the exclamations, the celebration—has overtones of claiming the kingship. It’s no wonder the Pharisees tried to shut the disciples up.
It’s also no wonder that Jesus noted in return that shutting the disciples up would be useless. Jesus rightfully reigns over all of creation and all earthly rulers; if one group of his subjects is unable to praise him, another will join in, down to the very stones. That is what makes it so tragic that he was killed during Holy Week by some of the very people he had come to save. That is also what makes it so crucially important—crucially important to every one of us, burdened as we are by death and sin—that ultimately he reigned over death itself.
How have past experiences of Holy Week affected you? How have you journeyed with Jesus?
How is Jesus calling you to walk with him this week?
Does Jesus rule over your life? All of it?
Today, worship with the congregation of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas as Kirk Franklin leads them in the anonymous Black spiritual “Ride on, King Jesus” at the funeral of Lois Irene Evans. Ponder the questions above as you worship.
Jesus, I surrender to you. Be Lord of this week and Lord of my life. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Humble King
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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