Happy Holy Week to you! In relation to Holy Week, this is Jesus’ journey where we observe an interesting assortment of people, experiences and exchanges for Jesus. Holy Week starts with Palm Sunday when people are really jubilant in celebrating Jesus. Not only are Jesus’ closest followers exalting Him, but much of Jerusalem poured into the streets to welcome Him, giving Him honor with their words and adulation, as we read in Matthew 21:9: “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
So, Jesus was surrounded by a huge crowd of people who were excited for His arrival. Over the course of Holy Week, Jesus has lots of exchanges with the religious leaders in the temple and these interactions were increasingly hostile. The crowds were excited for Jesus’ arrival but the religious leaders were threatened by Jesus and combative with Him. To be fair, Jesus was none too friendly with these religious leaders either. It seems to me that their interactions became increasingly tense, to the point that the religious leaders looked for an effective way to dispose of Jesus, ultimately hiring Judas to betray Him.
Before Jesus was betrayed, He had a very intimate and extended dinner with His closest followers. You can read about their interactions at this meal in Matthew 26:14-35, Mark 14:12-31, Luke 22:7-23 and John 13:1-17:26. These passages display the deep relationships that Jesus had with His disciples through authentic dialogue and honest words. Furthermore, Jesus demonstrates His immense love for His disciples by washing their feet, communicating what’s going to happen in the near future, having some raw dialogue with Peter and sharing a meal. These are very close and intimate people interactions with Jesus.
After this dinner, they head to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ people interactions get even more intense and intimate. He tells His three closest friends, Peter, James and John to keep watch with Him, while He goes a little distance from them so that He can be the most vulnerable and raw with His Father. Consider reading Matthew 26:37-46 to see what that looked like for Jesus. In these verses, we see Jesus moving between solitude and imploring His Father and wanting His three closest friends to stay alert for His company. Ultimately, Jesus was left alone with His Father in this darkest hour because Peter, James and John weren’t able to stay awake.
In all of Holy Week, I see Jesus’ people interactions happening across a wide array of contexts:
- Huge crowds jubilantly celebrating Jesus
- Combative religious leaders getting increasingly hostile with Jesus
- His closest followers (disciples) having an intimate dinner with Him and Jesus washing their feet
- His closest friends failing Jesus because of being physically tired
- Solitude with His Father to beg for a different path
It’s interesting to me to watch Jesus’ rhythms with people during Holy Week and we can make some helpful take-aways for engaging with people. To this end, consider that Jesus did crowds and understood that this was part of His journey. Some of us like crowds so that’s encouraging. Some of us don’t like crowds so we would be wise to recognize that sometimes crowds are part of what it means to follow Jesus. Additionally, Jesus didn’t shy away from the conflicts with religious leaders. We need to recognize if and when we’re being religious, along with understanding that religious people can get cranky with genuine Jesus. Furthermore, let’s appreciate that Jesus kept a small-group culture around Him throughout His earthly ministry. This tells us that our spiritual growth can be enhanced with small groups and spiritual communities. Jesus also had a core group of friends with whom He was most closely connected. We can also have a core few people who are our closest friends. Jesus chose His closest friends to be with Him in His darkest hour and even with that, Jesus had solitude with His Father. I think it’s really powerful to see Jesus pouring out His heart to the Father, expressing intense anguish and ultimately yielding to His Father’s will.
After all of these people exchanges and contexts, Jesus still went with the crowd when the soldiers came to arrest and apprehend Him in Gethsemane. When I think about Jesus’ people interactions during Holy Week, I could summarize them in five simple words: crowds, conflict, community, core and solitude. Let’s keep these words in mind as we endeavor to follow Jesus and become increasingly like Him. Happy Easter!