Holy Week 2021


READ:   Mark 11.1-11

‘The best way to know God is to love many things.’  [Vincent Van Gogh]

‘This seems the strangest holiday of the year, a celebration of misunderstanding.’   [John Leax]




Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.   [John 12.24-26]

All those who die like Jesus, sacrificing their lives out of love for the sake of a more dignified human life, will inherit life in all its fullness.  They are like grains of wheat, dying to produce life, being buried in the ground only to break through and grow.’    [Leonardo Boff]




READ:  Mark 11.15-19

‘Anger is…a vivid form of caring.  A chief evidence of the grace of God – which always comes to us in, with, and through each other – is the power to struggle and to experience indignation.’      [Beverly Harrison]



READ: Mark 14.1-11

This is the story of two disciples: Judas and unnamed woman.

Judas:   Judas Iscariot was probably a member of a radical group of Jews determined to drive out the Romans and punish Jewish collaborators.

He was not one of the inner three, yet he had a place of respect; at the Last Supper, he sat on Jesus’ left, a place of honour.

Why did he betray Jesus?  This is unclear, however there are two crucial moments recorded in the Gospels: 

One is in John 6 where people wished to make Jesus a king but he refused.  Was Judas angry because Jesus had killed the nationalist dream?

The second is in Luke 22.3-6 which reports the demonizing of Judas after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Judas feels betrayed by Jesus who will not seize power. 

Or ... perhaps he was trying to save Jesus from himself.  Getting Jesus arrested would save Jesus’ life.  Judas was trying to prevent Jesus and the other disciples from doing something foolish like starting a            revolution.                                                                                          

The tragedy of Judas is that he was crippled by his despair and guilt.  Like Peter, he too could have been forgiven but seems unable to have envisioned such forgiveness being available to him. 

An unnamed woman:  Radical love.  Paul Tillich writes:

“The history of humankind is the history of men and women who . . . wasted themselves out of the fullness of their hearts. People are sick, not only because they have not received love, but also because they are not allowed to give love, to waste themselves. Do not suppress in yourself or others, the abundant heart, the waste of self surrender.”  




READ:  John 13.1-17

“They kneel on the slanting floor before feet as white as roots, humble as tree stumps.  Men before men, women before women, to soothe the sourness bound in each other’s journeys.  Corns, calluses, bone knobs, all received and rinsed, given back clean to Sunday shoes and hightops.

This is how to prepare for the Lord’s Supper, singing and carrying a towel and a basin of water…. Jesus started it!”   [George Ella Lyon]

After Jesus had washed their feet…he asked, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’



‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
   and by night, but find no rest.’
   [Psalm 22.1-2]

“What remains incontestable is the fact that, in spite of what is reported about his curing the sick and raising the dead to life in Galilee and other places, Jesus displayed on the Cross nothing but utter helplessness and weakness.  Nowhere does the passion narrative depict Jesus except in this utterly powerless image.  The reason is that love, in terms of this world’s values, is forever vulnerable and helpless…Jesus powerless on the Cross, is the symbol of love – nay, the very incarnation of love.”  [Shusaku Endo]




In 1987, Biblical theologian Alan Lewis was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The diagnosis came as he was working to complete his study of Holy Saturday, Between Cross and Resurrection.  To our great benefit he was able to complete the book before he died in 1994.

Holy Saturday is not much thought of or appreciated in the church circles I inhabit, unless… Unless you are seriously ill or walking with someone who is seriously ill.  Then it can take on a powerful significance. 

Always, we struggle with this tension between lament and hope.  Holy Saturday reminds us that grief cannot be ignored or submerged under the weight of happy Easter celebrations.  We remember that it is the mourners whom Christ pronounces “blessed” now and who are also promised comfort in the future (Matthew 5.4).

In the final chapter of his book, Lewis poignantly writes:  “Wistfully now I recall being publicly declared at ‘the height of my powers,’ just weeks before my diagnosis.  ‘Several years worth of physical, mental, and spiritual energy drained away in the fatigue of disease, surgery, and therapy.  The next twelve months were like one long Easter Saturday.’ (403).   

After naming the distress, anguish, and pain of that year, Lewis turns to gratitude for wise doctors, loving companions, and daily small miracles.  And his as yet uncompleted book!  “Perhaps it is not a strict prerequisite for hearing, thinking, and living the story of Christ’s cross and grave to have oneself approached the grave….But such an experience…is surely no bad thing for those who would meditate upon the ‘death of God’ to confront full face the perishability of humanness, our inexorable decay and transience, by spending time among the dying and those given up for dead.”  (405)



READ:  John 20.1-18

Loren Eiseley, anthropologist and writer, tells of walking along a beach that he describes as ‘littered with the debris of life.’  In the end the sea rejects its offspring. 

Eiseley camp upon a man on the beach stooping over a starfish.  ‘It’s still alive,’ said Eiseley.

‘Yes,’ replied the stranger, and with a quick yet gentle movement he picked up the starfish and spun it far out into the sea.  ‘It may live,’ he said, ‘if the offshore pull is strong enough…The starfish throw well.  One can help them.’

So Eiseley and the stranger walked along the beach stooping to pick up half-dead starfish and throwing them back into the sea in the hope they might live.

Later, Eiseley reflected, ‘Somewhere there is a hurler of stars, and he walks, choosing always the possibility of life, not defeated by death.’                                                                                   [Loren Eiseley – The Unexpected Universe]

PRAYER:  Lord of the star-fields, universe Maker, on this day you raised Jesus your Son from the dead.  He not only defeated death, rose victorious from the grave, and triumphed over evil and sin, He also came back to us.  Thank You that Jesus rose, not only to take a seat in heaven, but also to be present with us at the table, beside the sea, and along the road.           For Your continuing presence among us, we give thanks.  For Your forgiveness of us, we give thanks.  For this day of days to praise, praise, praise, we give you thanks!   Amen