​An original painting of The Last Supper by an Ethiopian artist, given to Lynda Hollinger-Janzen. Photo by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen. 

By Joshua Garber
Thursday, April 16, 2020

Reflection 1 — Palm Sunday: Today, Christ rides into a city as royalty, only to be murdered less than a week later, and finally resurrected the following Sunday. The significance of Christ riding a donkey should not be overlooked. Whereas most royalty would choose to sit atop a powerful warhorse, Jesus challenges the notions of what a Savior looks like — a life-long theme that intensifies dramatically in the days before his crucifixion.

I rejoice in the coming of a Savior who could never sit on an earthly throne.

[image: Triumphal Entry (1969), Emmanuel Nsama, mural in the chapel at Njase Girls Secondary School, Choma, Zambia; Donkey II - Michael Flaherty]

Reflection 2 — Purifying the temple: Today, we stand with Jesus in the temple and are filled with righteous rage at the systems we allow to marginalize many for the benefit of a few. Jesus challenges the notion of docile peacemaking by ejecting those who profited off worshipers who wanted to be near God. With a whip, Jesus scatters the tools of injustice.

By attacking the pocketbooks of those with power, Christ solidified his death sentence. May we, too, have the courage to not only call out the barriers in this world that keep people from God, but to act.

[image: Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple (1675), Luca Giordano, public domain]

Reflection 3 — God, not Caesar: Often, it's suggested that Jesus saying, "Render what is Caesar's unto Caesar," is a legitimization of earthly authority, but there is another way to see it.

Yes, Caesar owns money, but beyond that, what remains that really belongs to Caesar? Nothing. The rest belongs to God — our thoughts, actions and bodies. All of who we are belongs to God. In his last week, Jesus drew a small circle around the true authority of Empire. He tells us things like military action and oppressive party politics contrast with our commitments as God's people.

May we never lose track of the greater narrative and allow our ties to the powers and principalities of this world to encroach on that which belongs to God.

[image: Aaron Brink, Squamish, BC, Canada]

Reflection 4 — True worship: Today, we watch Christ strip away the complexities of religion. Those who were most threatened by Jesus tried to use the Jewish law to trap him with his own words. The law was created to help folks understand how to honor God, and it united them as a people. However, at some point, serving the law was viewed as equal to serving God.

Jesus reminds us that we are commanded to do just two things: love God and love our neighbors — everything else is commentary on what that might look like.

Let us never allow our church politics and legalism to steal our focus from what God most desires.

[image: Sri Lankan Artist and Priest Rev. Jebasingh Samuvel]

Reflection 5 — Maundy Thursday: Today, Maundy Thursday, Jesus carefully chooses the final words and actions he wants to stick with people before his murder.

His last words in the temple to the public place him in the center of God's story, declaring that we know God through him and that rejecting his words is rejecting God's words.

After leading the first Holy Communion and washing his students' feet (Judas included), Jesus tells them there's one more thing they must do: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13, NRSV)

May profoundly loving actions and words be what signals our presence to the world, reflecting Christ to all who see.

[image: Ethiopian Christian icon of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, Betsy Porter, public domain; Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, Duccio di Buoninsegn, public domain]

Reflection 6 — Good Friday: Today, we ponder disruption as Jesus does some of his most important preaching during this final week. He challenges military might as a legitimate measure of authority by arriving on a donkey. He exorcised the marketplace and capitalism from the House of God. He exposed the limits to the power of Empire by relegating it just to money. He declared those who bear his name must be able to be recognized by their love.

Why was this the week Jesus was finally executed? He directly challenged capitalism, earthly power structures, and institutional religion — some of the most powerful things created by humankind.

He loves, heals, and gives people hope. This is why Jesus — God made flesh — was murdered on Good Friday. The only thing "good" about Good Friday is that's not how the story ends.

May we not separate the cross from the values and teachings of the man hanging there.

[image: Crucifixion, 1957, Roy de Maistre; Crucificion, South African artist Lindiwe Mvemve, 1977; The Cost, Sandy Maudlin, 2019]

Reflection 7 — Darkness: Today, we stand in darkness as Jesus lies in the grave. Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy).

Reflection 8 — Easter: Jesus is risen! Love gets the last word during Holy Week. Death is not the end of the story. If the cross represents all the hatred we are capable of, then the resurrection represents Jesus trumping that hatred with love.

"In the end, this is a resurrection story. Holy week is about a God who suffers with us — bleeds with us, cries with us, hopes with us," writes Shane Claiborne. "There is a movement happening — and this movement is about life. We've had enough death. The tomb is empty. Love has triumphed. He is risen! Hallelujah!"






​Joshua and Alisha Garber, along with their son, Asher, serve in Barcelona, Catalonia (a region where allegiance to Spain vies with voices calling for independence).



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