Over the next few days, I’d like to point out several things from the story of the last week of Jesus, drawing on all four of the Gospels. I’ll try to give enough detail to be helpful. But I’d also suggest that reading these sections this week will be helpful. Matthew, starting in chapter 21. Mark starting in chapter 11. Luke starting in chapter 20. And the whole last half of John, starting in chapter 12.
1. That week, Jesus stayed in conversation with God.
2. That week, Jesus taught clearly and intensely
3. That week, Jesus lived in relationship.
4. That week, Jesus loved extravagantly.
Here’s the thing at the core of his week. It wasn’t just the prayer. It wasn’t just the teaching. It wasn’t just the relationship.
It was the death.
We’ll talk about the resurrection next week, and we’ll remember that the death wasn’t permanent.
But in this week, at the end of it was the truth that Jesus only had a week to live, and then he would die. And he knew it.
Not because he deserved it for breaking laws, for something that might be regarded as a capital offense, but that’s how he was killed. He was crucified, a Roman form of capital punishment.
Take a life, lose your life. That’s the core of capital punishment.
There is an equation about it, which, like it or not, satisfying or not, is an equation that has some justice. There were other reasons that people might die. Treason. Rebellion against the Roman state. Blasphemy.
But what if you haven’t taken a life? In fact, what if your whole life has been perfect, giving healing and life to others? What if every act, every thought, every breath, has been about living perfectly, giving life, the opposite of blasphemy.
Capital punishment in that case makes no sense.
Yet that’s what happened.
So if it wasn’t because he deserved it, why did Christ die? Because we deserved that punishment.
When Paul wrote about Christ’s work he said, “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
So if take a life, lose your life is at the core of capital punishment, then lose your life, give all life, that’s the core of Jesus death.
Jesus showed his love by giving up, surrendering, his life. That’s what he did with his life.
But he did it for us.
During this Holy Week, as we think about how Jesus focused on those around him and us during his last days, it’s worth it for us to consider our lives, which for most of us will last more than a week.
How can we stay in conversation with God? How can we develop it while our lives are less urgent?
How can we do our work as well as we have every done it?
How can we attend to our relationships with attention and devotion?
How can we respond to Christ’s deep love for us?