Each year, during Holy Week, I experience the full schedule that is typical in ministry. We have special worship services, and Easter is the highlight of the year. At the same time, I try to go through the week imagining how Jesus and the disciples experienced it in real time. Beginning with Palm Sunday, we enter Jerusalem in our mind’s eye. We feel the excitement and try to avoid the allure of the crowd.
During the early part of Holy Week, the Bible provides less clarity about Monday and Tuesday. Instead of trying to find or create a harmonized timeline of the events of Holy Week, we can pick one gospel and see how it unfolds. For instance, in Mark 11.1-11, we read about Jesus entering Jerusalem (Palm Sunday). Verses 12-19 provides a clear delineation of a second day and tells about Jesus cursing a fig tree and going into the temple (Monday). Verse 20 starts a new day, Tuesday.
In Mark 11.20-25, Jesus and the disciples walk along the road and see a dead fig tree. Peter remembers Jesus cursing the tree the previous day, and Jesus uses the teaching moment to talk about faith. “When you pray, believe in your prayer, and God will give whatever you ask” (11.24).
The story continues through the week, but before we move to the next stop, we can pause on that dusty road. The disciples would have had no idea what was coming. I imagine that some of them had some awareness of the danger. Maybe they had a feeling that things were deteriorating and Jesus might need to lay low until the pressure died down. Or, the zealous revolutionaries could have been hoping Jesus would incite an uprising. They all needed more faith. We need a deeper faith.
Jesus’ lessons about faith during his final days are significant. Just when he was about to face his greatest test, he said, “Have faith and forgive others.” He could have been reminding himself of who he is. Yet, the inner workings of the mind of Christ are difficult, at best. More likely we cannot know what he was thinking.
The important lesson for us is to maintain our faith. We can explore the ways our faith is weak, and try to address them. Addiction counselors look for trigger events. They try to find what triggers an addictive behavior. We can borrow that approach in our faith journeys, and we can look for the things that trigger weak moments in our faith. When we identify them, we can adjust our behavior and try to live with greater faith.
The same logic applies to the way we forgive ourselves and others. Jesus tells his followers to forgive so that God can forgive you. When we forgive, we learn what it feels like and can then experience God’s forgiveness in a richer way.
The Holy Week journey continues…