Read Matthew 26:14-66
Palm Sunday and Holy Week are a mixed bag of emotions for most people. The week begins with shouts of hosanna and kids swinging palm branches. One day we might have someone ride in on a little donkey, but it is really hard to find one that is house-broken. That’s one I won’t try without unanimous session approval.
We get excited like the people in Jerusalem did 2000 years ago when the Messiah came riding into town. The people wanted a king and a savior and a kick the Romans out of our country person. Somehow they believed that this young man riding on a little animal would muster an army, give the call to arms, and there would be more Roman blood shed on the streets of Jerusalem than there would be on the altar from the lambs sacrificed for Passover.
They were not applying logic and logistics to their shouts of Hosanna and save us; they were filled with emotion. Somehow this man on a little colt would save them.
The cavalry would ride in at just the right time. The Marines would come by air, land, and sea. The SEAL teams would conduct a very special operation and the Romans would be gone and Jesus would sit on a throne and make everything right.
That’s something to get excited about, even though the King is riding on a colt and there is no army in trace.
The people were excited. Jesus was coming to town.
It was time for other things.
There was Passover to be celebrated. This was a special meal that Jesus has longed to eat with these few brothers closest to him.
There was foot washing and more teaching and talk of the Spirit that would come. As you search the gospels for this last few days in the life of Jesus, there is so much to take in, even going back to his anointing in Bethany with perfume that prepared him for burial.
And, of course, there was betrayal.
But this special meal was followed by a time of singing as these close friends walked to Gethsemane.
There was prayer, painful prayer by Jesus, and some sleepy disciples.
There was a special kiss from his betrayer and an attempt to seize Jesus by the forces that worked for the religious leaders.
But one of the disciples started swinging a sword. If we look to John’s account of this event, we see that the disciple was Peter. He drew a little blood by cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest.
You don’t have to be a military genius to know that 2 swords might not be enough to launch a full scale attack. But we find Jesus, his followers, Judas, some men sent to seize Jesus, and a couple swords in Gethsemane.
It sounds like the last 10 minutes of a CSI show as the mystery unfolds.
But Jesus rebuked his disciples for resorting to the sword even though he was the one who told them to bring them; but this incident prompts an incredible insight.
“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
In these two verses rest the heart of Christ’s passion.
He was living a human life. The gospels record instances of his divinity—turning water to wine, healing a blind man, raising Lazarus from the dead, and many more, but he had committed to live and die as a human being.
This task was perhaps all the more difficult knowing that at any moment, he could call upon his Father to release him from this journey of salvation.
At any time, he could have ridden into Jerusalem, not on a small donkey, but on a tall white horse with 12 legions of angels in trace.
At any time, Jesus could have said, “They are not worth it. Let them keep making sacrifices for all eternity. Let the altar flow with the blood of goats and bulls and let every man stand alone on judgment day.”
At any time, Jesus could have put a stop to what was about to transpire.
But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?
In every step along the way to the cross we see the passion of our Lord.
He was guilty of no crime; yet he stood condemned.
He had to refuse to defend himself or he would have been acquitted.
He had to refuse to object to the disregard of procedures, even the mock trial held at night.
He had to refuse to just put an end to the uncoordinated nature of this murder disguised as justice as he was bounced from court to court.
He had to endure the hypocrisy of the Jews who wanted him dead but did not want his blood on their hands. Sometimes the Romans were handy people to have around.
And of course there was the pain—the brutal, physical, emotional pain of being whipped and dragged and crowned with thorns, and of bearing his own cross, and of the crucifixion itself.
The unblemished lambs offered at Passover never knew what was coming.
The unblemished Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world knew exactly what was coming and did not call upon those legions of angels to save him.
We know that his distress was real as he asked his Father if there was another way, but Jesus knew that to save us from our sin, it had to be the way the scriptures had promised it would be.
For it would not be enough to take away the sin of the world. It had to be sufficient that those who sought God would come to believe in the Son.
Those who sought God would see his love in the Son.
It had to be the way that it had to be.
There were no shortcuts; yet as the scriptures required, not a single bone was broken.
But blood was shed from the unblemished Lamb. This divine sacrifice was made as it had to be.
And Jesus knew what was ahead of him. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He was present at the foundation of the world and even committed to this sacrifice from the beginning. Everything that was made was made through him.
Jesus stepped out of heaven, not in an instant but in a life lived among us and for a death made for us, so that we might truly live without being slaves to sin and captives to death.
As we consider this Holy Week, think beyond the foot washing and bread breaking and singing hymns in the garden.
Consider the passion of God living with us in the flesh knowing that with a word he could summon legions of angels to rescue him from the injustice and pain and humiliation and excruciating death that lay ahead of him.
Consider the passion that Jesus had for us.
He endured all of this not because he was powerless to do anything about it, but because his love for us was as strong as his Father’s love for us.
In the passion of this week, perhaps we can understand how inseparable God is from love.
Perhaps we can know a little better just how much we are loved.
Perhaps in the context of the Lord’s passion, we can see how love pervades all of the teachings of our Lord.
We all look forward to singing Christ Arose on Easter Morning, but this week is set aside for us to consider the passion of the Christ. We should meditate upon the One who came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the word and who deferred his proper place as the King of Kings to when he comes again.
He did this so that he could save us.
He did this so the scriptures would be fulfilled.
He did this so we may have the scriptures and the scriptures fulfilled that we might believe and be saved.
This is the week to understand the words, for God loved the world so much.
The Father and the Son working together so that the scriptures would be fulfilled and we might be saved—think on this miraculous love this week.
Know the Lord’s passion for you.
Come to celebrate the resurrection already knowing how much God loves you.