Stroll through Scripture for Holy Week, 2024

Holy Week is my favorite week of the entire church year.  It’s got it all jammed into this week – unique services, a depth in the story we don’t get the rest of the year, quite literally facing death and Jesus overing it, intrigue, doubt, complexity, uncertainty, vulnerability, complicated relationships, the lowest of lows and the highest of highs.  It has it all and more.  

In this week’s Stroll through Scripture I’m going to briefly look at the Narrative Lectionary assigned texts for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.  If no one has already said this, I invite you to go to these services (and especially the Easter Vigil if one is available to you).  I think we miss a lot when we jump from the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and skip over to the victory over death on Easter Sunday.  Dining with Jesus and having our feet washed and told by Jesus to love one another all while he is about to be betrayed is powerful (Maundy Thursday).  Walking with Jesus on his way to crucifixion and seeing what death attempts to do is disarming (Good Friday).  Hearing the whole story of God’s love for creation in spite of humanity’s continual rejection since the beginning opens us to new possibilities and encounters from God (Easter Vigil).  If we aren’t hearing and seeing what Jesus is conquering, then can we appreciate what resurrection is really about?  Can we even scratch the surface?  

Maundy Thursday – Mark 14:22-42

You can feel the weight in these readings.  Jesus knows what’s going to happen.  The Last Supper feels like a dinner with a convict who is about to be executed and he knows it.  Jesus’ last wish for a meal is to be with his closest friends, to remind them of what it’s all been about, and to give them something which can bring them together and give them hope.  

In Peter’s denial, we have Peter doing what he’s done before – disagreeing with Jesus.  The last time that happened, Jesus called him Satan.  The ball is in motion and Jesus knows it.  The disciples think they are going to stand on principle, but Jesus knows that their rationalizing will fall away when it matters.  

After the meal, Mark takes us with Jesus and his disciples to Gethsemane.  While Jesus prays, the disciples fall asleep twice.  In a way, their sleeping is a form of betrayal.  All of them agreed with Peter and said similar things – “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”  Yet, not long after those statements of certainty are uttered, we hear that the disciples can’t keep their eyes open even for an hour.  

Good Friday – Mark 15:16-39

It’s Act II.  Jesus has been arrested, tried, and found guilty and sentenced for execution.  It’s an ugly passage.  Everything about these verses showcased the worst part of humanity.  Jesus is mocked, put in pain, spat on, stripped, made to carry the instrument of his death, and then crucified where he suffers until he dies. Everything about these events encapsulates what every empire has always been about – dehumanizing cruelty.  The cruelty is the point.  And yet…in spite of all of this cruelty, death doesn’t get the final say.  

Mark completes the death of Jesus with something he’s been doing all along – he adds in a couple of twists.  Jesus dies and Mark tells us that the curtain in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  Jesus has been crossing boundaries throughout the Gospel and here again, even in death, a boundary has been shattered – the boundary separating God from humanity.  And after all of the torment and pain and death, it is a centurion, an outsider of the faith, the one who literally represents the very cruelty that has been inflicted, who is recorded as saying, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”  How ironic.  In this we see how the story isn’t over.  It’s just beginning.  

Easter Sunday – Mark 16:1-8

After the death of Jesus, he is buried and laid to rest.  Some of his female followers follow tradition and come to the tomb to anoint his body.  It’s an odd story.  They planned on going, but on the way there are asking themselves, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”  Did they not think of that before?  What was the plan?  But no worries, it was already done for them.  And they enter the tomb.  The symbolism is striking in this.  The women enter the place of death.  They enter with all their expectations – they expect to find a body.  They expect to feel the cold emptiness of the tomb.  They expect this to be the end Jesus’ story.  But it’s not. 

We are told that a young man, dressed in a white robe was sitting on the right side.  And they were alarmed or frightened.  In that moment, their expectations died, and their hope was born anew.  Expectations give us comfort.  They give us a sense of knowing and being in control.  We enter the tomb with the women with all our expectations, assumptions, knowing, and sense of control.  And what happens frightens us as well.  We find out that we aren’t in control.  And that’s when life really begins.  That’s when the story begins.  And it’s terrifying because we aren’t in control and we don’t know.  That’s what resurrection is all about.  We die to self, we get out of the way of what God is up to, and we follow, putting our trust in Jesus, because we have nowhere else to go.  

The beginning of Mark starts this way – “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 16:8, the traditional ending of Mark, is essentially telling us “ok, we started the story for you, now it’s your turn to see where the story goes.  Now it’s your turn to see how the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God is being lived out in the world.  

Questions for Reflection

  • Where do you find yourself in these readings?  Why?  
  • What does the continuation of the good news look like in your life?
  • What needs to die within you, so that new life can take root?  

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *