Palm Sunday 28 March 2021
Triumph or a tragedy?
I love Palm Sunday, with memories of marching down the street to church waving palms and singing songs! It was easy to imagine the enthusiasm of the crowds that welcomed Jesus as he arrived in Jerusalem! They were shouting ‘Hosanna’ which I always thought meant ‘Praise him’ but is better interpreted as a cry of impatience, ‘Save us now!’ For those crowds in Jerusalem who were fed up with waiting for deliverance from the Roman oppressors, it was a cry of excitement that this finally might be the king for David’s throne who would mount a military coup against the Romans. In Galilee, some of Jesus’ disciples had tried to make him king but he had refused, so maybe they thought he might finally be ready to lead an uprising and proclaim himself king! Did they notice that Jesus was riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey, as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah.
(Zechariah. 9:9)? Have you ever ridden one? If you have, you’ll know it’s definitely not the kind of animal to ride if you’re going to war! As Jesus entered through the Messiah’s Gate, or Golden Gate, which is sealed today but was wide open then, I wonder if some of them were sorely disappointed when instead of turning right to the Roman Garrison, he turned left towards the Temple? But Zechariah’s prophetic words urged them to shout for joy nevertheless! Jerusalem means ‘Shalom’ or ‘Peace’. The Prince of Peace was riding into his city. He would make peace through the blood of the cross.
True and humble King, hailed by the crowds as Messiah: grant us the faith to know you and love you, so that we may be found beside you on the way of the cross which is the path of glory. (Collect for Palm Sunday)
How to make your own Palm Cross
Monday 29 March 2021
How did Jesus react to the shouts of the crowds? When some Pharisees told him to quieten them, Jesus said that if they didn’t cry out, the very stones would. Even if their motives and understanding were skewed, this moment needed to be celebrated with triumphant shouts! (Luke 19:39-40). The creation, even inanimate rocks, recognised the importance of his arrival in Jerusalem!
And then, going down the Mount of Olives into the city, overcome by the emotion of it all, and the knowledge of what was to come, Jesus “wept over it.” (Luke 19:41-44). He knew that some of those who had cried “Hosanna” would soon be crying “Crucify him”. He had the Father’s agenda to follow, not the crowd’s, and they would turn against him. He could also see where this nationalism would get them and that the Romans would finally destroy the city a few decades later.
So what has all of this got to do with us? Well, the crowd was made up of ordinary people like you and me, and we are all affected by the spirit of our age, which is not that different to then. Nationalism, protests, war. This is the world we live in.
May we hear Jesus’ words to Jerusalem (then and now), “If you had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes” (v42). If we are going to be peacemakers we will have to let Jesus into our lives, as individuals and as nations.
Cleansing of the Temple
Jesus headed towards the magnificent Temple but what he saw there horrified him. What was supposed to be a “house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:6-7) had become “a den of thieves” (Jeremiah 7:11).
They were charging excessive rates of exchange and high prices for animals used for sacrifices, making money out of those who had come to worship.
Notice what Jesus does after overturning the tables of the money-changers – he does what the Temple was intended for— “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.” And as the children excitedly cried out praises, he reminded the pharisees that this was what God loved to hear.
Lord Jesus, help us to prioritise the things you did in a place of worship— prayer and praise, justice, healing, and passing on our faith to the next generation.
Tuesday 30 March 2021
Cursing of the fig tree
As Jesus and his disciples walked back to Jerusalem the next day after spending the night in Bethany, “being hungry, he saw a fig tree but found out that it had no fruit but only leaves. He cursed it saying: ‘May you never bear fruit again’.”
Cursing a fig tree (which Mark tells us was not supposed to produce figs as it was not the right season) seems somewhat unreasonable? But this is surely a parable of what is going on in Jerusalem at the time. The Temple was a wonderful, magnificent building but, like the fig tree, there were only leaves, no fruit.
Jesus was, like the prophets before him, enacting a parable. (Remember when Isaiah stripped naked and walked through Jerusalem; or when Jeremiah put an ox yoke round his neck!) Jesus was giving his disciples this kind of acted-out message and they would never forget it.
I wonder what Jesus sees when he looks inside our churches and our lives? God is looking for fruit (the fruit of the Spirit) that will bring glory to his name. Will he find just a nice building, with lots of activity, or will he find a people who seek him, trust him and are living in the power of his Spirit? In reply to the disciples’ amazement at his cursing the fig tree, Jesus tells them not to doubt but to have faith and they will not only see unproductive fig trees wither, but mountains thrown into the sea.
Lord, please live in us by your Spirit, so that our lives may produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kind- ness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Wednesday 31 March 2021
Matthew 24 & 25
The end of all things
Jesus has spent the day teaching in the Temple area and the disciples are marvelling at the magnificence of it. But Jesus shocks them by telling them that “not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.” What! Never! Yes, but there is more bad news. The world is also going to come to an end. As they sit chatting on the Mount of Olives, looking out over the city, Jesus answers their question about when this is going to happen.
Destruction of the Temple
This he said would happen soon. We know that the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD70.
The end of the World
He told them that only the Father in Heaven knows when this will happen. He tells them to look out for signs and events which will come before either of these events and warns them of trouble and persecution but also leaves them with a word of encouragement: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Like in many of the prophetic writings, the distance in time between events is blurred, as when one looks out from a vantage point across the land- scape—the further away they are, the more blurred the distance between the mountain peaks becomes.
There’s so much more to unpack in this passage but I’m hoping to follow up with a teaching series on Matthew’s Gospel from a Jewish perspec- tive soon, so look out for that.
Heavenly Father, there’s a lot we don’t understand, but we are happy that you, who knows all things, hold our lives in your hands, and we can trust you. Help us to “endure to the end”.
Maundy Thursday 1 April 2021
The Last Supper
a glass of red wine and some bread or matzos.
Jesus has planned this final Passover meal with his disciples, knowing what awaits him very shortly. Picture the cushions, the table, the basin, the bowl … but no servant to wash their feet. So Jesus, the Servant King, takes the bowl and towel and washes their feet (John 13:1-12). If you’ve ever done that, you’ll know how moving it is.
In the middle of the meal, Jesus says: “One of you will betray me!” Judas finally asks, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” and Jesus answers, “You have said so”. Judas has made his choice.
Knowing that in the next 24 hours they would all abandon him, Jesus “took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat, this is my body’.”
At that point, they must have realised that this was no ordinary Passover celebration, this was different.
“Then he took the cup and when he had given thanks, he gave it to his disciples saying: ‘Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the New Covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness on sins’.”
They probably had no idea what he meant at the time but would later understand. The Old Covenant was sealed with the blood of a lamb, but the New Covenant with the blood of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Hallelujah, what a Saviour.
God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end and drank the cup prepared for him: may we who share his table watch with him through the night of suffering and be faithful. (Collect for Maundy Thursday)
Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday
to follow in next week’s newsletter.
We welcome Michael!
Michael Tyhaleka started as the new driver in Centre of Concern on 15 March. Michael and his wife, Zoleka attend St Augustine’s where he has been a Lay Minister for more than 12 years. They have 5 children, Phumeza, Noblubabalo, Amanda, Siyabulela & Imange. Michael says he received a warm welcome and already feels as if he is home.
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