Holy Week Thoughts
by Rev. Dr. Tom Vollmer
Dear Esteemed Faculty, Staff, and Students,
I bid you warm greetings today, and am reminded of the importance of this week in our Christian calendar. Yesterday was Palm Sunday and I hope you had an incredible time with your church community. Our speaker spoke on the power of Good Friday,
and I was struck again at the sacredness of this week, and the sacrifice Jesus paid for each and every one of us.
For Palm Sunday, I'm always reminded that Jesus rode on a humble colt as He entered Jerusalem. Unlike other dignitaries who entered with incredible fanfare, Jesus entered in a rather inconspicuous manner that then as we know turned into quite a celebration with people laying palm trees on the ground. Often in the Gospels, we find ourselves confronted with opposing power plays being exerted by leaders. Jesus does not participate in that game, and reverses power to that of service and sacrifice.
As we consider this Holy Week, we are reminded that Jesus turns the power systems of His day upside down, and in so doing casts a vision of God's dream for humanity, one where men and women are invited into a personal relationship with Him - wow!
On Monday, the Gospels emphasize the moment when Jesus enters the Temple and clears it of those who were buying and selling. Listen to the words of Mk 11:15-19:
And they came to Jerusalem and he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. And he taught, and said to them: "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."
What an incredible moment this was, not only in Jesus' ministry, but also in the gospels themselves. This is not the normal picture we get of Jesus; rather, He charges into the temple and clears it of all the business going on. What a sight this must have been. At the same time, we have to wonder what this means? What was going on that it would cause such a reaction from Jesus?
Jesus ties the problem to two Old Testament passages (Is 56:7 and Jer 7:11). I won't go through all the details there, but they concern the proper way in which worship should be exercised in the community. Jesus points out that the worship going on in the temple had become corrupted and was less than the ideal God had in mind when He established the community in the first place.
Think about it like this: Pilgrims would come from a decent way away and many of them could not afford to bring their sacrifices with them. Sellers would provide the needed sacrifices for them so they could just enter and present their sacrifices. On the surface, this seems like a great idea since they were providing needed services to the people to accentuate their worship experience. However, the sellers turned what should have been a ministry of service to a way to exploit and take advantage of people, often exploiting the poor and the "least of these" the most. The worship itself then was grounded upon a corrupt system of exploitation. Jesus would have no part of this, and thus cleansed the temple, and created a place where people could worship God freely and without condition.
What we see in the cleansing of the temple relates to the proper exercise of power once again, and Jesus demonstrates that true power is manifested in the service and sacrifice to others so they can freely and without burden worship God.
You see, God opposes any system that oppresses His people. The death and resurrection of Jesus reinforces this, since it provides access to anyone who would call upon Him and confess Him as Lord (Rom 10:9-10).
On this Monday of Holy Week, let's remember that Jesus establishes the proper framework for worship, not where we have to purchase or buy our way into it, or perform in a manner that makes us worthy of His love, but based on His death and resurrection, where we have the freedom to be what God designed us to be!
Remember, each of you were created with Divine Design and we stand in freedom based on Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!
We love you all.