As you prepare to celebrate Easter, why not take the time to meet with friends, either online or in person, and reflect on some of the major events of one week that changed the world forever?
You can use this simple guide to direct your time of meditation and prayer.
A. Establish Your Focus
Matthew 26; Luke 19
Many of the events from the texts found below will be familiar to you. However, if you are meeting with people who are unfamiliar with the events of this season, you might want to limit the details you explore together. We suggest that you explore the anointing and triumphal entry of Jesus, as well as the plot to betray him, before inviting people to reflect on how these events affect their life.
B. Set the Scene
Jesus of Nazareth was gaining a following in Israel. Opinions about him were sharply divided, and the question of what to do with this man had reached a boiling point. Join us as we review some of the events of the final week before his death and consider the implications for our lives today.
Imagine yourself nearly two thousand years ago, living in a land promised by God to the descendents of Abraham. Whether you were Jew or Gentile (non-Jew), you conducted your daily affairs under the watchful eye and authority of the Roman government. The land is populated primarily by Jews, and Jewish religious leaders also exercise authority over the people of the land, especially in religious matters. From time to time, some have sought to break the bondage of the occupying Roman authority.
Jesus of Nazareth is causing waves. Some say he is demon-possessed, some say he is a dangerous rebel, and others say he is sent from God. He has healed many, and it is reported that he has even raised several from the dead. In fact, though a carpenter by trade, his miracles and his teachings have created enough of a stir that the Jewish religious leaders have taken steps to entrap him and eliminate him from the scene. Yet they are savvy enough to know that many people are following him and believe that he is the Messiah, the promised King who will deliver them from bondage.
It is spring and nearly time for Passover, the annual commemoration of the time when the children of Israel were freed from their bondage in Egypt. Consider with us the events surrounding this man Jesus, approximately three years after he'd first begun his public ministry. Although time does not allow us to look at every recorded event of his final days on earth, join us as we look at several distinct events that occur shortly before his final dinner with his disciples, his trial, his sentencing, and his death.
i. Anointing for Burial
Read John 12:1-8 (See also Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9)
In John 12, we find Jesus and his disciples arriving in Bethany for dinner with friends. Lazarus lived there with his sisters Mary and Martha. While at the dinner (banquet), Mary took a large quantity of fragrant perfume or ointment, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus. Other gospel writers said that his head was anointed, and given the amount used, it is quite probable that both his head and his feet were anointed.
- What do you think Mary communicated through her actions?
- How would you feel about such an extravagant gift? Any time we give sacrificially out of a sincere heart, our actions can also fill the room with a sweet fragrance of adoration.
- Why did Judas object to this gift?
- How did Jesus respond to this objection?
ii. The Triumphal Entry
Read Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 19:18-40 (See also Mark 11:1-11 and John 12:12-19)
- Two disciples were sent to bring back a young animal upon which no one had sat, and simply answer the owner if asked, "The Lord has need of it." How would you have responded as either the messenger or as the owner? Note: Matthew 21:4-5 makes reference to an Old Testament prophecy. See Zechariah 9:9 and Isaiah 62:11.
- Jesus rode into Jerusalem. How was he greeted by the multitude? Note: Some commentators state that cloaks on the road symbolized the crowd's submission to Jesus as King, and branches or palms symbolized Jewish nationalism and victory.
- Luke 19:37 states that his disciples or followers began to rejoice, saying "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" What do you think they expected of this one they called King?
- Matthew 21:9 says the crowds called out "Hosanna to the Son of David!" What does this mean? Who are they referring to?
- Matthew 21:11 continues: And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee." How did this view differ from that of most religious leaders of the day?
- Why did some Pharisees call on him to rebuke his disciples? How did Jesus respond? (See Luke 19:39-40)
iii. A Challenge to Jesus' Authority
Read Mark 11:27-33
Although similar accounts are recorded elsewhere, let's briefly focus on the account found in Mark 11:27-33. Jesus had drawn attention from the crowds and from religious authorities. The religious leaders had grown uncomfortable and sought to catch him in a verbal trap. This was not the only time it happened. On this occasion, they asked the question, "Who gave you authority to do these things?"
- Why did they feel this was a good question to ask Jesus?
- How did he respond?
iv. The Plot to Betray Jesus
Read Luke 22.3-6
- In Luke 22:3-6, we find a reference to a plot to betray Jesus to his enemies. Who betrayed Jesus? What was his relationship to Jesus? (How did he know Jesus?) Note: A parallel account is found in Mark 14:10-11, and preceding events in John 11:48-57.
- How did the religious leaders respond to Judas?
- Why was it important to the leaders to take him into custody in the absence of a crowd? (See Luke 22:1, 6; Mark 14:1-2) What did they plan to do to Jesus?
- Who initiated this plot to betray Jesus — Judas or the religious leaders? Why do you think this happened?
E. What about us?
We've reviewed a week of contrasts — one in which Jesus was seen by some as King and by others as a rebel. He was worshipped and celebrated. His authority was questioned. A close follower decided to betray him. Many tried to decide what they should do with this Jesus.
- How important is it for us to face the same questions? (In other words, are questions of His identity, worship, authority, and betrayal important to us today?)
- What might our decision for or against this Jesus cost us individually? (In other words, will it cost us something to decide to follow Him? Will it cost something if we choose to turn our backs on Him and walk away?)