This is Holy Week, the most important week in the year for the Christian. As we journey through this week, we near the end of the Lenten season, a period of reflection, confession, and prayer. The spirit of Lent might well be summed up in the following passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
“I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”
What would it look like to faithfully follow Jesus through this week and beyond? I would like to suggest five practices, taken from Jesus’ example in the last days of his life on earth that we might seek to imitate this year.
We must look for every opportunity to serve. As Jesus gathered with his disciples on the final night before his arrest, he modeled servant leadership for them. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he knelt to wash their feet, telling them, “You do the same.” To follow the way of Christ is to look for opportunities to serve others, not to be served by others.
We must take every opportunity to bless and encourage. After the meal, John’s gospel records Jesus’ lengthy conversation with his disciples. Over and over, he seeks to encourage them and build them up for the difficult trials they would soon face. How often do we look for opportunities to bless and affirm others? I’m not just talking about complimenting someone when they do a good job. I’m talking about seeking bless others, not based on their merit, but merely because they are an invaluable child of God.
We must humble ourselves and submit. In the garden, Jesus’ humanity is on full display, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me….” I believe that he didn’t want to die. None of us does. However, he finished that phrase, “…yet not what I want, but what you want.” To follow Jesus involves submitting to God’s will above all else, regardless of the cost.
We must refuse to retaliate. Over and over again, Jesus was falsely accused, beaten, abused, and tortured. Over and over again, he had the power and authority to lash out at his attackers, putting them in their rightful place. Yet, Jesus chose a different way. He chose to let the cycle of violence stop with him, absorbing their wrath and refusing to mirror it back.
We must allow forgiveness to flow through us. One of the most compelling moments of Good Friday is the moment that Jesus looks down from the cross, sees the Roman soldiers who nailed him there unjustly, and prays for them. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” To follow in the way of Jesus is release others from the debt they owe, to unshackle them, and to let them go free.
In doing these things, we set our own hearts free to experience more than Christ’s death. As we follow in this way of Christ, we experience true life and resurrection from the dead.