John’s Gospel has always been my favorite. It was the first part of the Bible I read after professing my faith in Christ in 1963. I have read it many times since, preached from it repeatedly, and for several years I used the Gospel of John as the basis for a course I taught in seminary about inductive study methodology. This week’s Gospel readings (except for Saturday) are from John’s Gospel. They give us the opportunity to “walk in Jerusalem, just like John,” and to observe this Holy Week through his experience. In doing so, his words can lead us into a fresh experience of these days.
In today’s reading, John begins the day before Jesus entered into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday. The passage begins in Bethany with Mary, one of Jesus’ dearest friends. During dinner, or perhaps at the end of it, she anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume—valued at a year's wages. Judas complained, but Jesus put him in his place, honoring Mary's act of devotion.
When we think of Holy Week, we easily think of God’s extravagant love offered to us through Jesus. But John reminds us that there is a corresponding extravagance that can come from us to Jesus. God spared no expense in the gift of Jesus. Similarly, we are invited to respond to God's love with exuberant generosity. Holy Week is not a time to be calculating (as Judas was), but rather to be “lost in wonder, love, and praise” as Charles Wesley wrote in his hymn text, “Love Divine All Loves Excelling.” Holy Week is not only the story of how great God's love is for us; it is also the testimony of how great our love can be for God.
Dear God, work in me during this Holy Week so that I can live exuberantly in response to your amazing love. Amen.
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. Psalm 22 tells of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. In First Corinthians Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of the Gospel writer John. Jesus foreshadows his death in multiple ways, but even his closest followers struggle to understand and accept its meaning. Why would the Son of God experience such alienation and suffering? It is all for us, the ultimate work of love. But then he conquers the grave! Praise be to God!
Read John 13:21-32. When have you noticed darkness planting seeds of betrayal in your heart? How did you follow Jesus’ light?
Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 52:13–53:12. On Good Friday, God enters into human suffering. When have you felt God’s presence in your suffering?
Read John 20:1-18. How has Christ found you?
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