A journey through Holy Week with the President and Vice-President

Monday - Turning the tables

Gill Newton

I’ve never really been one for throwing things when I get angry, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t felt like it from time to time! And it’s perhaps comforting to know that I’m not alone.

Although, we may be tempted to think it’s a little out of character, Jesus got angry too, but always for good reason.

On the first day of Holy Week, just after his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, Jesus and his Disciples arrive at the Temple.

This should have been the central and most important place at which people gathered to worship God, but instead what he finds are money changers and people selling doves at ridiculous prices for use in sacrifices.

Jesus responds in anger and turns over the tables, declaring ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves’.

Jesus is angry because of the injustice and exploitation he was witnessing – A sanctuary of worship turned into a market of dodgy dealers. He wanted nothing to stand in the way of people encountering God whose love and justice is for all.

I wonder where we might have allowed the rituals and traditions of our faith to get in the way of what is important – our worship of God and our service of others?

What might we need to overturn in our thinking and our actions?

What needs to change in our churches and in our lives so that both might be places where it is evident that the Holy Spirit is present?

Many of the Chief priests and teachers of the law saw what Jesus was doing, and they weren’t happy. But Jesus wasn’t going to let them stand in the way of what he knew was good and right.

Is there something against which you might be called to display righteous anger? What have you noticed that may be stopping those around you from discovering God for themselves?

After his time in the temple, Jesus went and stayed outside of Jerusalem in Bethany. His outburst in the Temple had kickstarted the unfolding of a series of events that would change many lives.

Tuesday - The Mount of Olives

Kerry Scarlett

I have days when I find it unbearable to watch the news. The stories of the terrible reality of war and devastation, the misuse of power, the suffering this causes, can feel overwhelming.

I find myself thinking - how can we even hope to make a difference?

On the second day of Holy Week, Jesus and his Disciples leave the city and retreat to the Mount of Olives. From that vantage point, looking down over the temple and the city, Jesus prophecies the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age.

This can’t have been easy for the disciples to hear. But it seems to have been important to Jesus that they heard and understood the difficult reality of what was to come.

And Jesus’ message to them, in the midst of all that he foretold - of devastation, and turmoil, all caused by those with power over others, who are seeking to gain more wealth, more land, more status - was this. To remain faithful. To continue to live as disciples who have known and who are called to share, God’s unbounded love for all. To seek peace, and flourishing, for all people, in the midst of chaos.

How can we help seek justice and peace for those around us? In our communities, our countries and our world?

After a busy day of preaching, Jesus returns to Bethany where he would stay for the next day. Elsewhere, Judas Iscariot meets with members of the Sanhedrin supreme council to negotiate betraying Jesus.

Wednesday - Preparation

Gill Newton

I tend to think of myself as something of a “Martha” because I’m not very good at stopping and reflecting! I would much rather be doing something that feels constructive.

But sometimes in life, however busy we are, or however much we can see around us that needs doing, it’s good to stop and take a step back. To gain a different perspective. To listen to what God might be saying.

On the third day of Holy Week, the Bible doesn’t contain any specific indication of what Jesus and his disciples got up to. We know that they were resting in Bethany, a place where Jesus had gained many new followers after raising Lazarus from the dead.

So, what can we take from this?

Perhaps Jesus and his followers were exhausted after a busy few days in Jerusalem? Perhaps Jesus knew he would need to rest ahead of what was coming? We know that by this point, the religious leaders had already tried to have him arrested.

Bethany seemed like a home from home for Jesus, a place where he had many friends, people who he could trust and rely upon. Jesus was God, but he was also human – maybe he just wanted to spend quality time with those he loved and be cared for by them in return.

Who are the people that we can rely on to offer us support and solace when we are tired or struggling with what’s going on in our lives?

Also, around this time, although it’s a bit unclear when it precisely happened, Jesus was anointed with a whole jar of very expensive perfume by Mary. Some of the disciples were indignant about this, saying it was a waste, but Jesus knew that what the woman had done was beautiful – preparing him for what was to come. Some scholars say that this action may have spurred Judas on to betray Jesus for money.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry we often see him retreat to quiet places to pray and rest – demonstrating a way of life that draws us closer to God. Jesus knew his time was short, and yet he spent it wisely not frantically.

Where are the places, physically, emotionally or spiritually, to which we go, to pray and to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead?

Tomorrow Jesus was about to experience his last hours with his friends, this was perhaps the calm before the storm.

Maundy Thursday - Washing of the Disciples' Feet

Kerry Scarlett

I find it much, much easier to think of solutions to other people's life problems than I do my own! Maybe you’re the same?

But, unless they are a very good friend, we don’t always know all the hidden complexities and challenges they are facing - that mean the answer isn’t as straightforward as we thought.

We are sometimes guilty of doing this in our churches too. We see people who are struggling, and think we know how to fix things, without ever really listening to them, ever really taking the time to be with them.

On the fourth day of Holy Week, the actions of Jesus and his followers start to parallel the events of Passover, the festival where Jewish people celebrate God saving them from enslavement by the Egyptians in Moses’ time.

In the Upper Room, Jesus prepares to share the Passover feast with his Disciples, friends he had journeyed with for three years.

But before all of that was to become clear, he wrapped a towel around his waist and poured water into a basin. Then he did something no one was expecting. He starts to wash his disciples' feet.

You see, Jesus’ relationship with His disciples wasn’t one way. He knew them; their hopes, fears, dreams. He’d seen them at their best and their worst.

This act of service wasn’t just for show, this was Jesus sharing his heart with some of his closest friends. He was demonstrating how we should love and serve one another, To be with each other in all the moments of life; the joyful and the challenging.

As an ordained Methodist Deacon, this passage is one that is particularly meaningful to me - as a reminder that God’s unbounded love is shared in the being with, and that we are called to do likewise.

After this Jesus shares the first ever communion with his friends and then they make their way to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prays to God, sweating drops of blood in agony.

Finally, late in the evening, Jesus is betrayed by Judas’ kiss and arrested by the Sanhedrin. He is taken to the house of the High Priest, where they begin to make their case against him.

Good Friday - The Cross

Gill Newton

What do you do when it feels like everything has gone wrong?

Whether we like it or not, life is like that sometimes, things don’t always turn out how we thought they would and maybe we’re disappointed or angry or upset?

On Friday morning of Holy Week, Jesus, having been arrested the night before, is subjected to false accusations, an unlawful trial and torture. He was condemned to death and nailed to a cross. He was given a crown of thorns to wear and forced to carry his own cross. He was treated as a criminal.

For those who had journeyed with Jesus, this would have felt like the end of everything. Yet it was going to be the ultimate display of “unbounded love” for humankind. But in the moment, all hope of what Jesus had started, must have felt lost.

How do we react when life takes a turn that we really don’t want it to take - when we are at the end of ourselves?

Jesus died on that cross! But that isn’t the end of the story. This was part of the plan, Jesus knew he had to die. It wasn’t an ending, but a new beginning. Jesus had done something so significant it was going to change everything.

Holy Saturday - The Tomb

Kerry Scarlett

I think many of us know how it feels when our life, or the life of those we care for, has not turned out as we would have hoped or wished. When we can do nothing to stop the pain, or the fear we or those we love are feeling. When the God who once seemed so close feels unreachable.

Now we come to the part in the Easter story that we might want to skip over.

So, it seems like all is lost. Jesus has been killed, crucified and placed in the tomb, where his body was guarded by Roman soldiers. His followers had gone into hiding, fearing the same may happen to them.

And yet- in the darkness of the tomb, and in the waiting world, is some deeply hidden treasure. Something mysterious, terrifying and beautiful is going to happen.

We are called to witness to that as we wait in difficult times - to keep seeking and noticing for surprising glimmers of hope as they emerge.

Here’s the first glimmer in the Easter story - two members of the court, who had condemned Jesus to death, were secret followers of Jesus. Having once been afraid, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took courage, came out of hiding and together cared for Jesus’ body, ceremonially preparing it for burial. Brave enough to love and care when everything seemed hopeless.

Where do you need to be brave and show love when things look hopeless?

This day of waiting of grief and of hopelessness must have felt like a lifetime to Jesus’ friends. But something was about to change all of that. Something that would change the World.

Easter Sunday - The Empty Grave

Gill Newton

For Jesus’ friends, waking up the next day, Sunday, must have felt like another dark day. Their friend had gone. What were they to do now?

Some of the women decided to do what they could and went to the tomb to finish anointing Jesus’ body. And things were about to take a surprising turn!

The tomb was empty! And they were told by an angel – “He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.”

This has to be the most amazing example of God at work when we can’t see anything happening. In the dark and cold of the tomb, God breathed new life into Christ, restoring hope for his friends and loved ones and offering new life and hope to the world.

God is always at work, even when we don’t feel it or see it.

I wonder where God might be at work in your life or in the lives of those around you at the moment? Today might be a good day to take notice and give thanks.

Jesus made at least five appearances to his followers on that day, so there are lots of witnesses to the truth that he was alive again. And in all the years that have followed, many have acknowledged that truth and discovered that new life and hope for themselves.

And on this day when many are celebrating the good news that Jesus is alive, what reasons do you have to celebrate because something new has emerged from what previously felt hopeless and lost? Remember that God is always at work even when we can’t see it or feel it.

This is the most wonderful story of God’s “unbounded love” displayed in the person of his son Jesus.

How might you use that story to give hope to someone else today and help them discover the treasure of a life lived with Christ?

We hope you’ve enjoyed journeying with us through Holy Week and pray that you have a wonderful and blessed Easter.