What did Jesus do the last week of his life? As we know, the gospels are not a diary of Jesus’ life. So we can’t say for certain what he did on each day leading up to Good Friday. But by piecing together the four gospels, we can come up with a possible scenario. His last week could have looked something like this.
The Saturday before he died: Jesus visits the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany. He had raised Lazarus
from the dead shortly before. Perhaps this visit was something of a “birthday party” for his good friend. I imagine there was much laughter, bantering, and joy there—not to mention good food. But as they were happily celebrating Lazarus’ life, a group of men in nearby Jerusalem were maliciously plotting Jesus’ death. This visit for Jesus must have been bitter sweet. He needed no crystal ball to know that this was the last time he’d be with these friends who meant so much to him.
Question: Do I make time for my family and friends—or do I mistakenly assume I have all the time in the world?
Sunday: Jesus enters Jerusalem riding a donkey. The crowds go crazy. They love this guy! They believe he will free them from Roman tyranny. They cry, “Hosanna!” which means “Save us!” Ironically, in a few days, this same crowd will cry, “Crucify him!” But Jesus will save these people–but not from the Romans. He will save them from sin and death. And he will do this not through violence, but through surrendering himself to violence out of unimaginable love.
Question: How swayed am I by the “crowds,” that is, by public opinion, by advertising, by my culture? Or do I allow myself to be totally swayed by the life and teachings of this Man from Galilee?
Monday: Jesus enters the Temple to teach and is greatly disturbed by what he sees there. The Temple was supposed to be the place where God dwelt, a place of reverence, a place of worship, a place of prayer. But it had become a hectic marketplace with people buying and selling and exchanging money—and people cheating the poor and lying and being interested only in making a profit. Jesus angrily turns over the tables and chases the money changers from the Temple. This action will give his enemies one more good reason to kill him.
Question: Is my heart a place where God can dwell? Or is there “clutter” in my life that needs to be removed?
Tuesday: Jesus is back in the Temple teaching. His enemies throw questions at him, trying to trap him. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?”…”Is there an afterlife?”…”What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus calmly provides answers—usually by asking questions of his own. In the evening he is on the Mount of Olives with his disciples.
Question: How well am I living the greatest commandment: Love God, love others, love self? Do any of these three aspects need attention right now in my life?
Wednesday: We don’t know what Jesus did on this day. Honest, we don’t. But do you think perhaps he “took a day off” just to speak and listen to Abba, his Father?
Question: Do I ever take “time off” just to speak and listen to God?
Thursday: This day Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples…He gave them (and us) his body and blood as
food for our earthly journey. He washed the feet of his disciples, a magnificent gesture of loving service. Afterwards, he went into the garden of Gethsemane to pray….This is where his enemies found him, arrested him, and tried him in great haste. They found him guilty of blasphemy, but they didn’t have the authority to put him to death. They needed Roman approval for that.
Question: How am I washing the feet of others in my life?
Friday: In the morning Jesus’ enemies drag him before Pilate. Pilate at first tries to save Jesus, but eventually he gives in to the crowd’s demands. Jesus is scourged, sentenced to death, and executed as a common criminal.
Question: Why not take time this week to attend the Holy Week services in your parish…Or read and reflect on one of the passion accounts in the gospel…or simply pray before a crucifix…Here is a song entitled “Behold the Wood of the Cross” by the St. Louis Jesuits. You might want to listen to the words and reflect on the pictures, thanking Jesus for his life, his teachings, and his death out of love for us.
What touches you most about the last week of Jesus’ life?
Is there anything else you wish to share about Holy Week?
PS: I will be giving a presentation on Tuesday, April 7, at St. Francis Retreat Center in Bethlehem, PA. The title is: Celebrating Three Gifts of Easter: Peace, Courage, and Joy.” The program runs from 8:45 AM to noon and includes lunch. I also repeat the presentation in the evening. Phone: 610-867-8890 or go on line for details. Thank you for your prayers for this event.
Also, I will post my reflection for Easter on April 5, Easter Sunday.