In this Holy Week series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of grace” toward all who followed him as disciples. Many sought to emulate his humble life, obedient self-sacrifice, and unconditional service to others…what will be your response today? As you pray and reflect, behold his glory, believe his message, belong as his beloved disciple, and become more and more like his image, with more of your true identity in Christ Alone.
Holy Week: The Grand Finale
Read Matthew 21-25
Tuesday of Holy Week is one of the fullest days for the teaching ministry of Jesus. It’s one of the quieter days for religious ceremony in our day, but for Jesus it was chock full of significant work. Therefore, if you have the time to reflect on all five chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, you’ll see this for yourself.
Starting in the early morning, we see him traveling and hungry, and noticing a fig tree by the side of the road, but there were no figs just leaves. So he pronounces it barren and immediately it withers. Then, he stumps those who question his authority to do such things with a quiz they fail to answer…so neither does he tell them by what authority he is doing these things. Brilliant, Jesus! I marvel at his approach.
Then, we read on to discover some of the most poignant parables: the two sons, the tenants, and the wedding banquet. All of them are about the Kingdom he is ushering in with his presence, but to those who “did not believe” (Matt. 21: 32) or “who killed the heir and took his inheritance” (Matt. 21: 38-40) or “did not deserve to come to the banquet” (Matt. 22: 8) did not make it. Each is a withered fig tree!
He continues on with exposing hypocrisy about paying taxes (“give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”) and misinformation about the Scriptures and the resurrection (“you do not know the Scriptures and the power of God”), followed by a question of an expert of the law, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replies with precision, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…” with the second like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Perfect answer, Jesus.
And if that wasn’t enough, on Tuesday he also proclaims to the crowds the seven woes to those who do not practice what they preach. Each of them directed specifically to the Scribes and Pharisees. These are followed by teachings about the signs of the end of all things, the day and hour remaining unknown, and underscored by three parables about “keeping watch” – the ten virgins, talents and sheep/goats.
Yes, nothing very ordinary or sublime about the Tuesday of Holy Week! It’s full to overflowing, expressive of the urgency of Jesus’ presence in their midst and his final words to them about why he came and the importance of the Kingdom of heaven. Reflecting on these firm teachings is yet another reminder of the outstretched arms of love coming from Jesus: don’t miss out on eternity and the explicit nature of the Kingdom of heaven. Keep watch; seize the day; say yes; remain faithful; be blessed; love!
Behold Jesus living abundantly, maximizing every possible moment; believe his warnings and embrace his teachings; belong to those who love rather than judge; and become wise, vigilant, faithful, and true.
For additional reflection today, prayerfully consider the words of this ancient Holy Week hymn, “Jesus Lover of My Soul” by Charles Wesley, 1740
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.