“The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.” Later in this chapter we read that Judas Iscariot went to these same priests to betray Jesus. We see a labyrinth of intrigue as the religious establishment looks for a way to be rid of the problem of Jesus. Winding his way to the anti-Jesus establishment is Judas, disciple of Jesus. What a strange place to begin a week’s devotions! The plot by the religious establishment to rid themselves of Jesus presents us with several dilemmas.
1. Was the plot of the religious establishment an instrument of God or an effort to cleanse the culture of a disruptive influence, or was it an act of evil that was turned upside-down by God?
2. Were the plotters loyal to their understanding of holy traditions more than their understanding of God’s love?
I tend to agree with those who recognize that the plotting against Jesus was done by those who wanted to cleanse the culture of a disruptive influence and that God turned those circumstances upside-down.
Those who plotted against Jesus offer a lesson to all who attempt to defend God by cleansing culture of what they perceive to be evil. Whether we think of John Calvin’s iconoclasm in Geneva or the efforts of more recent preachers and politicians to redefine a nation as a religious state, these efforts call into question our understanding of culture and faith.
We also see the beginning of the divine plot in Jesus’ words concerning the woman who poured ointment on his head: “She has anointed my body . . . for its burial.” The statement offers a foretaste and a reminder that goodness is stronger than evil and that the seeds of resurrection are planted somewhat discreetly in our midst.
Holy God, help us to be with Jesus this week. Remind us that you transform the evil we meet into goodness. Amen.
This week’s readings prepare us for Palm Sunday, a joyous event. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, a symbol of kingship in ancient Israel. The people greet him with loud acclamations. He is coming in the name of the Lord! Standing along the road leading into Jerusalem, how could anyone imagine what would happen that following week? Wasn’t Jesus finally going to manifest the fullness of God’s power, take his place on the throne of David, and overthrow the Romans? No, because that was not his mission. He came not to build an earthly kingdom but to lay aside his rights. He came to be glorified by being humiliated . . . for us. He came to suffer and die . . . for us.
Read Isaiah 50:4-9a. How does your faith community reflect the servant in this reading?
Read Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. How are you rejoicing in this day that the Lord has made? How are you blessing “the one who comes in the name of the Lord”?
Read Philippians 2:5-11. How does this hymn of the early Christian community speak to you as you prepare for Holy Week?
Read Mark 11:1-11, 15-18. Spend some time imagining the scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem as described in the reading. Where are you in the scene? What do you see? What do you hear around you? What do you feel as you watch this event?
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