“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Luke 19:38 NIV
Passover boiled up strong religious and political expectations among the people yearning for a Messiah. Thousands of pilgrims lined the streets crowding the close confines of the walled cobblestone streets of Jerusalem. There was always occasional violence even in the midst of security detail from the Temple police, Herod Archelaus' palace or from the Roman Antonia Fortress. Tempers ran high in a large city filled to capacity with outsiders. Jewish historian, Josephus, chronicled a brutal episode of Jerusalem's history by documenting the clash between Herod Archelaus' armed guard and a mob of unruly pilgrims. 3,000 pilgrims died in the conflict. You may read more about this history in Wars.*
Jesus' appearance in Jerusalem had serious religious and political overtones which set many on edge. It must have been like expectantly listening and waiting for the match to strike in a drought season. A holy fire was about to be set. The implications of which no one could invent or imagine. I've always sympathized with the Roman soldier whose sole responsibility was to watch and report any indication of trouble from the tower of the Antonia Fortress, which was securely fashioned to the eastern end of the Great Wall on the Temple Mount. I imagine his adrenaline rush or his heart pounding as he saw the boisterous crowd emerge over the East hill. They shouted loudly. They waved Jericho palm branches in the air. A central figure rode on a donkey. There are churches that commemorate that entry into Jerusalem to this very day.
Holy week is saturated in violence from beginning to end but we rarely talk about it. Jesus warned the disciples about his gruesome death three times in Luke's gospel. They did not understand. As Jesus ended his journey to Jerusalem, he narrated parables about hating an appointed king and killing a vineyard owner's son much to the crowd's delight and the authorities' horror. Jesus wept as he approached Jerusalem and predicted the destruction of the Temple. "They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." Luke 19:44b NIV
The Journey Lenten Devotional will not have commentary for the Holy Week. I designed it that way. I hope you read the scripture for yourself and allowed the Holy Spirit to captivate your imagination and heart. I pray God opens your mind to his truth and Jesus becomes more to you than an historical figure. The Messiah changed the world and has great plans to continue changing the world until he arrives again for his final victory. May you deepen your resolve to become more committed to God's mission and values no matter what the cost.
Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept your Word. Silence in us any voice but your own, that, hearing, we may also obey your will; though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. **
*Josephus, Wars, 2.10-13
**The HarperCollins Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers through the Ages. Edison, N.J.: Castle Books, 1997.