This is a famous quotation by Harold Wilson when in politics in the 1960s and 1970s. Jesus must have thought the same during Holy Week, the week starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Sunday.
The importance of Holy Week and Easter cannot be over emphasized. It is preceded by a period known as Lent during which people are supposed to give up something so that others can benefit from their sacrifice. An aunt of mine used to make a big fuss of giving up chocolate; however, I do not think anyone else benefitted although she herself might have lost a bit of weight! A few months ago we celebrated the birth of Christ but, without the crucifixion and resurrection, Christmas would have little meaning.
Holy Week starts with Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus had been to Jerusalem before to celebrate the various feasts in the Jewish calendar; so what was different this time? Well this time, Jesus had come to announce himself as the Messiah knowing full well what the result would be. By entering the city on a donkey, he was marking the fulfillment of the prophesy of Zechariah, “Lo your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious, he is humble and riding on a donkey”.
Let us start this Holy Week by declaring ourselves anew as part of God’s kingdom.
Each day during Holy Week, Jesus returned to Bethany to spend the night. So on Monday, he and his disciples set off again for Jerusalem. On the way, they saw a fig tree. Jesus went to see if there was anything on it; there was nothing. Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered and died.
This story has puzzled people as Jesus appears to be acting unreasonably. However, before a fig grows, a small green knob appears as a forerunner of the fig. At that time of year, there should have been forerunners on the tree but Jesus “found nothing but leaves”. He knew, therefore, the tree would not bear fruit and so was of no use. The forerunners were edible and often eaten by peasants and the poor; perhaps Jesus was going to eat one.
As we proceed through Holy Week, let us not be like the fig tree. Let it be seen that we can bear fruit for Christ.
Jesus continues to the temple where he turns out the money changers and traders. This is another messianic claim: that the temple is “my father’s house”. When asked by whose authority he acted, Jesus answered with a question of his own.
“Did John’s baptism come from heaven or from man?”
The priests did not wish to say “from man”; the crowd would have been angered and it would have indicated that the crowd was still accepting Jesus.
Jesus spent most of this day teaching in the temple and telling many parables. They included the story of the vineyard in which wicked tenants killed the owner’s son and which Jesus told to predict his own death.
Holy Week is a time when we too should study and prepare ourselves for the greatest event in our history: Jesus’ victory over death when he rose on that first Easter day.
On the Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus and his disciples prepared for the Passover meal which they ate in an upper room and which Jesus had arranged in advance. When they sat, Jesus broke the bread and instigated the celebration of the Eucharist by declaring that “the bread was his body broken for all” and “the wine was his blood shed for all”.
It is what we celebrate every Sunday during our services of Holy Communion. We should all try to be worthy of his sacrifice. Each time we take the bread and the wine, we should remember what it cost and who paid the price.
Thursday ended with the arrest of Jesus and his examination before the Jewish supreme court, which found him guilty. The following morning, Friday, they sent him for trial before the Roman authorities and, ultimately, crucifixion. It is worth remembering that, at any time, Jesus could have ended proceedings and walked away as he had done in Nazareth a few years before (as recounted by Luke). On that occasion, the crowd had taken Jesus to a cliff intending to throw him over it, “but he passed through the midst of them and went on his way”.
The final day of Holy Week is Easter Sunday. It marks the resurrection of Jesus from death, his death having paid the price of our sin. It marks the new beginning; hence the giving at Easter of eggs which represent the new beginning and the new life.
Is it a coincidence that Easter is in the middle of Spring when everything in the garden is new and fresh? People spring clean their homes to make a new start in a clean house. So this year, why not spring clean ourselves as well?
At the beginning of a New Year, we make New Year resolutions. How about making resolutions at Easter time for the new life? Make thinking about others a priority over thinking about ourselves. Make attending church and worshipping God a regular activity. And why not take up some active role with a local charity to give our time for others?
Finally, however, try not to eat too much chocolate!