Pentecost 19, 2023

We are walking with Jesus through Holy Week. Things are tense. There are groups of people who are actively trying to kill Jesus. On Friday of this week, they will succeed. But that is not contrary to what Jesus has in mind. In fact, you see Him goading them to do it. It is the way of the cross, the way of salvation, the way of God’s strange and counter-intuitive logic, His plan to save the world.

Other than the fact that this material is recorded for us in the Gospels, I am wondering why we are getting this now? After all, isn’t this the material of Lent and Holy Week. We have a whole season of the year and festival week dedicated to reliving Jesus’ life between Palm Sunday and Easter morning. Why do we need to revisit it here? I think there are three reasons we are getting this.

  1. Holy Week is so focused on Good Friday and the events surrounding Jesus’ betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and death that we often do not pay adequate attention to what He says in this week leading up to those events. We need to hear what He says.
  2. Jesus’s words are preparing us for the proper celebration of Christ the King/Last Sunday of the Church year. We are realized eschatology folk, not the millennialists and dispensationalists who have so often twisted this up for us. The end of the world started when Jesus hung between heaven and earth and rose from the dead. His words in the days leading up to his trial have a decidedly eschatological twist.
  3. Jesus is encountering and contending with power. It is this reason that i find most compelling. Jesus spent much of August and September telling us about the core markers of His church – namely forgiveness and grace. Now, Jesus is turning our attention to another aspect of our Churchly life, and that is in relation to the world and what passes for power there. Jesus is modeling and informing our own interactions with the powers of this world.

Which of these will inform your preaching? Any and all of them are good. What do your people need to hear today? Are they struggling with their mission as a congregation? You might use the first of these. Are they oblivious to the eschatological dimension of their faith, likely because they don’t really want to hear about that stuff? You might opt to use number 2 above. Have they succumbed to the temptation to worldly power? You might try the third option.

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