Entering the Story
A dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.John 12:2–3 (NIV)
‘All of life is Lent.’ So I said to a visiting American friend not long after I had moved to England, for although I adored being married to my new husband, I felt as if I had lost so much in the move to a new country – job, family and friends, familiar customs and language. I had tried to observe my usual practice of various fasts during Lent but gave up after a few days when it all felt so hard, my heart hurting from the accumulated losses.
After a few years, however, I settled in, finding I could open my mouth without uttering too many gaffes and making some treasured friends who accepted me as I was. I started to think again about observing Lent with some spiritual practices, for I remembered how much richer Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday had been when I had prepared myself during Lent.
‘I remembered how much richer Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday had been when I had prepared myself during Lent.’
Have you committed to Lenten practices during this season? If yes, consider where you’re at with them – perhaps you’ve been observing them faithfully, or maybe you’re more sporadic in your practice, or perhaps you feel you never really got started. Wherever we fall along this range, or not on it at all, know that God runs towards us when we turn to him. He delights to meet with us whenever and wherever we are.
Thus as we move towards Palm Sunday and Holy Week, consider how you might prepare for Easter during the week as we approach it.
For instance, on Palm Sunday you could read the passage from Matthew’s gospel (21:1–11) imaginatively, putting yourself into the story – perhaps as the disciple finding the donkey and colt for Jesus, or maybe as a member of the crowd. The next day, read a passage from the Passion story prayerfully, using the practice of lectio divina (read through the passage four times with an emphasis on reading, reflecting, responding and resting). And so on.
Ask God to show you
Ask the Lord to show you what might be the best spiritual practices suited to your passions, personality and needs. I trust he’ll answer your request magnificently.
One way to approach Holy Week is to consider each day what Jesus experienced, being conscious throughout the day of the unfolding events.
The following compilation* is from my BRF Lent book for 2017, The Living Cross.
‘Ask the Lord to show you the best spiritual practices suited to your personality.’
- Evening celebration; Mary anoints Jesus (John 12:2–8)
- Entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds bearing palm branches (Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–10; John 12:12–18)
- Visit to the temple (Mark 11:11)
- Return to Bethany (Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11)
- Cursing the fig tree while going to Jerusalem (Matthew 21:18–22)
- Clearing the temple (Mark 11:15–17)
- Return to Bethany (Mark 11:19)
- Reaction to the cursing of the fig tree while going back to Jerusalem (Mark 11:20–21)
- Debates with the religious leaders in Jerusalem and teaching in the temple (Matthew 21:23—23:39; Mark 11:27—12:44)
- Talk about future times on the Mount of Olives as they return to Bethany (Matthew 24:1—25:46; Mark 13:1–37)
- Jesus and the disciples remain in Bethany
- Judas returns to Jerusalem to plan for his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:14–16; Mark 14:10–11)
- Preparations for Passover (Matthew 26:17–19; Mark 14:12–16)
- Passover meal and Last Supper (Matthew 26:20–35; Mark 14:17–26)
- Farewell discourse with his disciples (John 13—17)
- Praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42)
- Perhaps in the very early hours, betrayal by Judas and arrest (Matthew 26:47–56; Mark 14:43–52)
- Jewish trial – three phases: appearing before Annas (John 18:13–24); before Caiaphas and part of the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:57–75; Mark 14:53–65); and before the fully assembled Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:1–2; Mark 15:1)
- Roman trial – three phases: appearing before Pilate (Matthew 27:2–14; Mark 15:2–5); Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6–12); and Pilate again (Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15)
- Crucifixion (Matthew 27:27–66; Mark 15:16–39)
- Witnesses to the resurrection (Matthew 28:1–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–12)
- Resurrection appearances (Matthew 28:9–20; Luke 24:13–52; John 20—21)
Lord Jesus Christ, you came and blew away everyone’s expectations of what the King of kings and Lord of lords would look like. As we enter into the events of Holy Week, I come to you in humility, bowing myself before you, confessing my sins and receiving your forgiveness. May the events of this last week of your life be brought alive in my imagination, that I might know you more intimately and be more grateful for your sacrifice, which gives me life. I join the crowds to shout out with joy, ‘Hosanna to the King of kings! Blessed are you who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
*Based on one found in Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew (Zondervan, 2004), pp. 709–10.