I LOVE the drama of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, as we see so much of the
I LOVE the drama of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, as we see so much of the Gospel in the events of these few days that are remembered in the various services.
The Jewish Sedar service/meal recalls the people of Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt and so the setting of the Passover.
Those who accompanied Jesus from Bethany into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday were obviously thrilled by Jesus’ leadership, teaching and healing and hoped to see great things when he reached the city itself — but clearly they did not understand his real message of redemption.
The next day he challenged the Temple authorities by overturning the tables of the money changers, emphasising the Temple as a place of worship and challenging the priorities of the Jewish leaders.
Two days later he gathered his 12 closest supporters for what was to be their last supper together. He inaugurated the “Holy Communion” service, sharing the bread and cup — even with Judas who was to betray him.
An important part of this service is when everyone leaves at the end without any of the normal courtesies to remind us of how the disciples fled for their lives after Jesus was arrested.
Then as Jesus and his disciples set off on their long walk to where they were staying in the village of Bethany, Judas slipped away so that he could lead the authorities to arrest Jesus in the dark away from the crowds that thronged Jerusalem’s streets during the day. Peter took action in defence, cutting off the ear of one of the slaves but this was not Jesus’ way.
Jesus was interrogated and beaten in the hope of getting a useful confession but he stood his ground and still his kingship was not understood.
The so-called trial in front of the Roman governor ended with him being found not guilty but handed over for execution by crucifixion to please the Jewish leaders.
His death three hours later was assumed by family, friends, soldiers and authorities to be the end of the story of the preacher/prophet/healer Jesus of Nazareth.
But his resurrection three days later with his tangible presence witnessed by a number of people in the following days and weeks turned despair into joy, gave birth to Christianity and sent the Good News firstly across the Mediterranean and then across the world. It is a privilege to be with Jesus through the week and then to carry on beyond Easter in the light of the resurrection.
Finally, the participation of Judas Iscariot in the first Lord’s Supper is a remarkable testimony to the theme of inclusiveness throughout Jesus’ ministry. We are reminded of this in every communion service when the celebrant says in the words of consecration: “Drink this, all of you.”