John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Slowing Down for Holy Week

I posted this a couple of years ago, but I think it has some relevance still:

It had been a busy week, and it was just Wednesday. Things had started off with a bang and a parade, Jesus looking more like a comic rendition of a conquering king — riding into town on the back of a donkey with hundreds (perhaps thousands) of peasants throwing down their coats before him and waving palm branches. It looked like the Messiah was coming to claim Jerusalem.

But all was not well.

The Pharisees complained about the level of excitement (Pharisees frequently do). Can’t you get those kids to calm down and be quiet? Jesus goes toe-to-toe with the religious establishment and refuses to back down. They lack the popular appeal and the official power to enforce their demands and can only stand there red in the face.

Jesus, however, does not rejoice in his temporary victory. Instead, he weeps over the city of Jerusalem. This is the last time he’ll see the city like this. In a few short decades, the city itself will be ripped to shreds by the Romans. And he knows what this passionate week will cost him. So, he sobs. Undignified, gut-wrenching sobs.

Bright and early Monday morning, Jesus and his disciples make their way to the Temple. On the way there, he curses a fig tree. Once he gets there, he turned over the tables and benches. People and animals scrambled this way and that. The Sadducees must have joined the Pharisees now in the anger and hatred of this man. But he had the people on his side. If they tried to stop him, they might have a real fight on their hands. And the ever-present Romans were not too far away, hands on swords, watching and waiting for their cue to quell a potential rebellion.

Tuesday was a day of conversation. Following two days of action, everyone wants to talk to Jesus now. Some Greek people. Members of the Sanhedrin. Herodians. Sadducees. Pharisees. The people. Everyone wants to hear Jesus talk about who he thinks he is and what he intends to do. They question his identity, his authority, his politics, his eschatology, his ethics. The whole series of conversation builds to a fever pitch as Jesus launches into a diatribe against the Jewish leaders (specifically the Pharisees).

Afterwards, Jesus breaks down in tears again.

But Tuesday ends on a positive note. As he is leaving the Temple, he sits down in the court of the women and watches people as they approach the 13 trumpet-shaped bronze receptacles. Each was labeled, telling what the money would go towards. Jesus sees wealthy people casually tossing money, the coins sliding down the bronze, clanking metallically, attracting attention.

That’s when he sees her. Unnoticed by anyone else, an unassuming widow drops two tiny coins in the coffer.

Jesus gets so excited that he calls his disciples over to tell them her story. It must have seemed strange to them, given the scale of everything else that’s been happening this week, that Jesus would get this worked up over a mere shaving of metal. But to Jesus it’s a big deal.

The week has been full to overflowing, pregnant with meaning and import. It will get heavier as we move towards the finale: the brooding tune of Thursday evening’s meal, the somber note of devastating loss that is Friday afternoon, the silent and uncertain pause that is Saturday, the eternally resonating major chord of victory that is Sunday morning.

But before we get there, Jesus, it would appear, takes a day off. Nothing is recorded about his whereabouts or activities on Wednesday. Perhaps he was making plans with the cryptic man who appears to Peter and John carrying a water jug. Perhaps he was watching Judas wrestle with the demons that eventually prompt him to do his dastardly deed. Perhaps he spent the day praying and gathering his thoughts.

Regardless, it’s instructive enough that Jesus — knowing full well that he had less than a week to live — chooses to do nothing the biblical writers deemed noteworthy on one of his days.

Given my normal level of activity and busyness, I should probably follow Jesus more closely — especially when it’s Jesus’ day off.

Because the economy has recently forced me out of my job, I've had the chance to look around at my friends who serve churches from a slightly different perspective. This is a week filled with all sorts of frenetic activity. Extra services to plan. Egg hunts to coordinate. Rehearsals. Videos. Sermons. Guests. So many of them seem to be running at breakneck pace.

I wonder how many of them would be willing to follow Jesus in taking some time to sit and do nothing productive or remarkable for a while.