Wednesday of Holy Week – “Fight Like Jesus” review

  • Read the overview of the book here.
  • Read about Palm Sunday here.
  • Read about Monday here.
  • Read about Tuesday here.

On to Wednesday, where the story of Holy Week shifts dramatically. Plans are laid, things are set in motion. Discussion is done. What will happen, will happen. But little do they know that it won’t work out the way they want it to.

Porterfield begins discussion about Holy Wednesday by looking at the religious leaders. And with good reason. The ball is in their court, so to speak. We’ve seen what has happened over the last few days at the Temple. The Romans sat by quietly – they don’t care about a religious dispute, unless it is going to become a riot or insurrection. Jesus outsmarted his opponents, squashing their attempts to trap him theologically or politically. What are the religious leaders going to do?

They have a dilemma on their hands. The Temple authorities serve a function and that function will be their main concern. Because in serving their function, remain in a position of privilege, even as they are under Rome’s authority. “Contrary to what you might expect, Rome actually oversaw the appointment and removal of those on the council. As New Testament scholar Craig Keener points out, by filling the council with the members it desired, Rome was also able to obtain the results it wanted. Chief among those results were the collection of taxes and the maintaining of public order.” (pg. 100)

And that’s the key to understanding what happens on Holy Wednesday. While Jesus wept coming into the city because no one would pay attention to the things that make for peace, Godly peace, the temple authorities, Rome, and even the people were more concerned with an opposing peace – peace through violence and squashing anyone who threatened status quo which ensured the flow the money and the maintenance of power. “Jesus was a threat to regional stability.” (pg. 101)

The contrast that is on display on Holy Wednesday is this – the ends justify the means vs. the means are as important as the ends. Caiaphas argued that it is better for one man to die than the whole nation perish. (John 11:49-50). The ends justify the means. He was pragmatic. He believed that if people kept following Jesus, there would be a violent insurrection and Rome would come through and slaughter people. And the taxes wouldn’t be collected. And his power would be stripped. And someone else would be appointed as High Priest.

Which leads to Porterfield’s first lesson for this day of Holy Week – Christlike peacemakers content for peace with the means that are consistent with the end goal of peace.

In other words, there is no room for the ends justify the means when we are following Jesus. When we live by the ends justify the means, we become the very thing we seek to overcome.

The second scene that Porterfield points to is the unnamed woman who pours perfume over Jesus as he dines at the home of Simon the Leper. So many questions. Her act is an act of extravagance. “This woman was about to use up all her social security fo ran act of devotion.” (Pg. 105)

It was an act of devotion. And an act of burial preparation as well. After Jesus dies, he is laid in the tomb and there is no time to put the spices on his body. But no worries, his body has already been prepared for death. And how fitting that it is done by a nameless woman on the margins of society – the people Jesus identified with and brought Good News to.

Which leads to Porterfield’s second lesson – Christlike peacemakers contend for peace from the margins of society, and from that vantage point they see the true, destructive nature of violence. In the garden on Thursday we’ll see that violence impact the person most on the margin – the temple slave. His ear is cut off. He isn’t there of his own free will. And he’s the one that suffers violence. It’s no surprise that Jesus will heal him.

“Situated in the halls of power, the Sanhedrin thought the path to peace required the use of violence. Given where they stood, I’m not surprised they came to this conclusion. They viewed the world from a position of power, and from that perspective they saw the wielding of power as the only real solution to their problems.” (Pg. 110). This is just as true today as it was then. The only difference being who is in the position of power. Men in suits in bunkers and secure locations make decisions about war from positions of power – not having to bear the brunt of violence, but willing to impose it on the poor who will shed their blood for the decisions of the men in suits.

And lastly, Porterfield talks about the betrayer. The key question is this – why would Judas betray Jesus?

Here’s Porterfield’s answer – “The only reason you betray a friend for a few days’ pay is because you believe that friend first betrayed you. Over the course of the past few days, Judas had come to realize that Jesus was not the kind of messiah he had signed up to follow. On Palm Sunday, Judas watched in confusion as Jesus wept upon a donkey while the crowds hailed him a liberator. On Monday, Judas stood aghast as Jesus drove some of his fellow countrymen out of the temple instead of the Gentiles. On Tuesday, Judas listened in horror as Jesus ordered his followers to not fight for the temple’s survival. And finally, on this day, Judas could hardly believe his ears when, not once but twice, Jesus spoke of his imminent death. If Jesus wanted to die without ever putting up a fight, Judas had no desire to go down in defeat with him.” (Pg. 114-115).

Which leads to Porterfield’s third lesson for the day – Christlike peacemakers recognize the role that crushed expectations play in triggering violence. “When expectations are crushed, people often turn angry and violent.” (Pg. 115)

Tomorrow we’ll turn to Maundy Thursday.

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