Today, we release the newest book from GCD Books A Guide for Holy Week: The Last Days of King Jesus—which is a compilation effort from our writing team as well as some of our favorite freelance contributors.
Here’s a description of the book:
Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, the drama of redemption unfolds in a powerful way. For centuries, Christians have meditated through the duration of Holy Week on the suffering and passion of Jesus. Each reflection generates a sense of wonder at both the person who suffered and the meaning of his suffering. From the midst of Jesus’s crucifixion is encapsulated powerful statements that unfold the mystery of his nature and suffering.
Walk with us through the Holy Week and reflect on the work of grace that Jesus brought about through his life, death, and resurrection. This collection of essays, Scripture meditations, and songs will serve you during Holy Week as you seek to grow as a disciple of Jesus.
We’re also offering a giveaway! Purchase a paperback or digital copy of Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson’s Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection and email [email protected] proof of purchase, and we will send you a FREE digital copy of A Guide for Holy Week.
Mathew B. Sims, Managing Editor
My wife and I recently celebrated the birth of our fourth child. The arrival of our third girl was marked with extra joy as my place of employment recently extended the policy on Paternity Leave from 14 days to 30 days. The children had dad in the home for thirty-two straight days.
In spite of this nice treat, I missed one thing about work—returning home to thundering applause. All right, so maybe it isn’t always thundering, but it’s usually noticeably loud. Most of my children stop in the middle of their tasks and express some form of welcome. The two-year-old rushes to the door shouting daddy”demanding I pick her up even when my hands are full.
Like my own children when I arrive home, Jerusalem erupts in thunderous worship when Jesus enters. Christ’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem is a story most Christians know. During Palm Sunday, a lot of churches have their children involved in some rendition of palm leaf waving in church. But much like my arrival home from work is for my older (more distracted) children, many Christians treat the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem as the reigning King like it’s boring. Yet, if we stop, this event which kicks off holy week is an exciting story. Let’s revel in Christ to get a glimpse of that.
Christ’s Kingship and House
I am not an animal person. I can handle dogs and cats but that’s my limit. While the idea of farming and being among wildlife is mentally enticing, I know it is not a viable reality—I’m a city boy. So the idea of Christ requesting an obnoxious donkey always makes me laugh a little. And yet, “The Lord needs” it to fulfill Scripture (Matt. 21:5). Jesus rides into Jerusalem to thunderous applause as the reigning King of Israel,
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” – Matthew 21:4-11
Christ does not become King when he ascends to Heaven. He does not become King when he is raised from the dead. The “holy week” leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion is something akin to a kingly inauguration. The Virgin Mary carried Christ into the “city of David” (Lk. 2:4). The donkey carried Christ into the city of King David (2 Sam. 5:9). The people’s praise reflects this truth. The praise for their King comes from Psalms 118 as they acknowledge the “Son of David.” Imagine the raucous nature of this event. How uncivilized and esoteric the expression must have been to leave the entire city wondering who this Jesus Christ was! Like my children when I return home, the children of Jerusalem could not help but scream and shout “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matt. 21:15).
Yet, for all the expressions of joy and excitement, this King did not have a place to “lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). He did not have a palace within Jerusalem. He had no throne to ascend. In fact, the narrative indicates that Jesus leaves the city every evening to find shelter (Matt. 21:17-18). So where does the King go upon his triumphal entry? Here, Jesus turns the kingship motif in a divinely messianic direction. The King returns to the temple and calls it “My house” (Matt. 21:12-13). Psalm 118 echoes that this too was a fulfillment of Scripture,
O Lord, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
– Psalm 118:2-26
The King’s entry into his city is not complete until he takes his people into the “house of the Lord”—the very house that has been turned into a “den of robbers” (Matt. 21:13). Who resides in the house of the Lord?
The Occupants of the Lord’s House
When I’m smothered upon entering my home after work, it takes an act of Herculean strength to set down bags and food containers while picking up children. With children in tow, I visit the restroom and the fridge for a beer. Eventually, as the king of my castle, I collapse onto the couch. Or if I am being good, I get to work in the kitchen.
As King, Christ gets right to work in his house. One can imagine the confusion of the Temple occupants as Jesus rifles through tossed tables and chairs. “Money-changers” were taking advantage of people in Jerusalem for the feast. Christ cleans his house of these “robbers” and makes space for the his people. And the “wonderful things” that Christ did was to allow the blind, lame, and young into the temple with him,
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant – Matthew 21:12-15
The people the King brings into his house are the rejected and outcast. In this regard, Christ reflects the mercy of King David who brought Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth to his house and table (2 Sam. 9). The King of Israel, in lieu of his pending crucifixion, brings the young and the broken into his house (Matt. 21:14-16). These events set the stage for holy week and result in the plot to kill Jesus (Matt. 26:1-5).
And doesn’t Jesus do this still today? As we celebrate the Passion of our Savior, are we not reminded that the joyous entry into Jerusalem still pales in comparison to the triumphant procession that awaits us all in the final resurrection? Christ would tell multiple parables about the people who would reside in his house. And these parables, though originally about Jews, apply to us today. We are the people on the roadside in Christ’s parable of the wedding feast (Matt. 22:8-10). Or more pertinently, we are those who reject God (Matt. 21:29) only to be found the obedient son due to the King’s mercy and grace (Matt. 21:28-32; 43-44). So what kind of obedience does our King demand?
Obedience Fit for The King
What does discipleship under the reigning King look like? Thankfully the events of holy week illuminate our path. An underdeveloped event of holy week is the testing of Christ on paying taxes. Most individuals use this passage to communicate some type of political statement, but our Lord used it as a decisively non-political teaching moment,
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. – Matthew 22:15-22
The Pharisees enter this scene infuriated with Jesus. They have been upset since his entry into the city and are now looking to get a political conviction out of him. But in the middle of this curious question about politics and taxes, Jesus Christ makes a statement about rendering obedience to the true King. Christ’s answer to render taxes unto Caesar is based upon the coins bearing his image. If it bears the image, it is owed to that ruler. Christ’s insight is that men are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). Render your money to the local authority, but render your allegiance and obedience to your God. It is on the heels of this indictment that obedience is owed to our True King that Jesus condemns the religious “obedience” of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:1-36).
Over the course of Christ’s final week, the Pharisees prove that they do not understand how they bear the image of God and owe obedience to Christ. Further, in a moment of profound irony, they offer Christ the ultimate image bearer to Caesar (Col. 1:15). All of this convoluted rejection of Jesus is set in contrast to the final anointing of Christ. The Gospel of Matthew places the Pharisees’ decision to kill Jesus right alongside the anointing of Christ for his death (Matt. 26:1-13),
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” – Matthew 26:6-13
Much like Christ’s triumphal entry, the story of Christ’s anointing often loses its impact to our religious ears. Yet, our Lord says that wherever the “gospel is proclaimed” so also this act by this woman will be remembered. In contrast to the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus, this woman anoints him for death. In contrast to the Pharisees rejecting the broken and weary, this woman humbles herself to anoint a soon-to-be-dead-man. Even the disciples of Jesus are unable to see that she has sought the greater gift of her King’s impending death.
Holy week teaches that obedience fit for our King ust revel in his death. We are to celebrate his triumphal entry into heaven. We are to celebrate his conquest of death. And all of this is done by the simple means of the Lord’s Supper. Christian discipleship in holy week focuses on the death, burial, and resurrection of the King. It is to proclaim “Hosanna in the highest” and his resurrection every Sunday in corporate worship.
And when we do this each Sunday, we are waiting for the final return of Jesus Christ. Then we, not unlike my small children, will rejoice and be glad at the return of their King. We will shout and laugh. We will joyously run to our King because our obedience is found by resting in him.
Joshua Torrey is a computer chip designer and editor of Torrey Gazette. He lives with his wife Alaina and their children (Kenzie, Judah, Olivia, and Cora) in Austin, Texas. Together they serve their local body—Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He authored The Lord’s Prayer: A Family Devotion and edited John Calvin’s Geneva Catechism and contributed to GCD Books’s An Advent Guide and A Guide for Holy Week.