Friday marked the beginning of Holy Week, yesterday it was Palm Sunday. In Holy Week we remember the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the time he spent physically present bringing the Kingdom of God into our reality. One of the amazing things that we ought to remember is that this week represents a third of the content of the four gospels. All four authors seem to abruptly apply the brakes to their narrative as Jesus enters Jerusalem. If you would like to spend some time, as I will, studying this week in accordance with the various days I have placed an outline put together by a New Testament professor of mine. Though I was given the list in class it also appears in his commentary on the book of Matthew for the NIV Application Commentary series (though I cannot commend the entire series Matthew and Romans are good). But, before I go to do my devotions this morning I want to give some thought to this week in terms of masculinity and discipleship.
In terms of masculinity there are two things that are interesting to me about this week. The first, and most obvious, is that Jesus knows what he is going to do and in my reading of the text becomes increasingly burdened by the weight of it. Consider this for a moment, Jesus knows very early on that he will go to Jerusalem to be executed for the sins of his brothers and sisters, for the Father’s elect. I am thankful for my pastor, who pointed out that in Luke 9 Jesus set his face to Jerusalem. We might consider Luke 9:51 as the beginning of Jesus’ death row march, from this point on he’s a ‘dead man walking’, and he is well aware of it. And it begins to weigh on him. Obviously we might look to the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus’ frustration at his disciples and the sweating of blood, but before that, consider the cursing of the fig tree. Does this not seem out of character? Not sinfully so mind you, but where is the patience and care that he has displayed thus far? And immediately after that, the clearing of the temple. Jesus has displayed anger in the text on occasion, but this almost seems a violent outburst (again, not in a sinful manner, it was clearly the right reaction). In my reading of Jesus’ final week we see several instances of the wear and tear on Jesus. Yet he presses on.
I see this as a lesson for men. Jesus presses on to the cross to die so that other may live. He will bear the stress of a difficult task, culminating in the pain of execution, for others. I think a man ought to regularly contemplate and pray for the requisite strength to stand between the barrel of a gun and innocent life, yet as Jesus wept in that infamous garden, he was not being prepared for a moment of heroism, a split-second pain before life faded, he was being prepared for a death so painful that a new word had to be coined to express it—’excruciating’ has its origin in 16th century Latin, it mean torment, but the word is assembled: ex (from) and cruc or crux (cross); from the cross. Jesus as a man bore the burdens that others ought to have carried, modeling self-sacrifice. I connect this particularly to masculinity because of Paul’s Ephesians 5 exhortation to men to love their wives with that kind of love.
The second point on masculinity that stands ought to me is the intentional discipleship. As I—a modern. efficiency driven, American—considers the final week I think about all the hours with the disciples and the hours of traveling back and forth to Bethany, and I wonder why Jesus isn’t performing miracles. I think, the water into wine thing would probably be a pretty sweet trick right about now. Or I wonder why he isn’t just doing some version of open air evangelism. Rather there are hours dedicated to the intentional instruction of his core group of disciples. He is instructing, preparing, training. I see this as deeply tied to a call for men to pursue explicit discipleship of others. Discipleship can be passive and implicit for a time, but at some point it must be made explicit and active in order to be effective. Jesus could have spent his last days primarily ministering to crowds and in doing so implicitly showing and teaching the disciples how to perform tasks that will need doing in the coming years, but he choose to teach them explicitly. Men are called to do the same to lead by example, yes, but also to articulate and instruct explicitly (though not necessarily formally) the method, manner, and purpose for our lives. Displaying masculinity in many ways is about practicing discipleship.
Finally I want to comment on masculinity and death. I believe joy and humor are essential to masculinity, but I believe there is a sobriety to being a man as well. I avoid the word stoic, although it is similar, because I think the Greeks missed the mark a bit. There ought to be a sobriety because men ought to consider that we don’t know—unlike Jesus—when or how God will take us from this life. We ought to learn from Jesus that life that even the best of men can be taken earlier than we would want. Thus we ought to mirror Jesus in his sober disposition. We ought to concern ourselves regularly with the question ‘am I ready to die?’ I believe this will produce a lifestyle of intentionality. Jesus lived soberly, and it caused him to set priorities and then intentionally pursue fulfilling them. There is an interesting line toward the end of Mark 1, where the disciples look for Jesus because there is a crowd that wants Jesus to heal their sick, but rather than acquiesce to their desires, when his disciples find him, he says that they should go to the next town so that he can preach there, and he adds “for that is why I came.” Jesus had a mission on this earth and he needed to be intentional about fulfilling his mission because he did not have eternity to do so. His sobriety concerning life lead to an intentionality in life, which I believe produced a contentment in life. His sober living did not mean he was without joy and passion, and play. Regularly Jesus is at feasts and parties. And his intentionality did not lead to an enslavement to a to do list, rather it freed him up to enjoy the little things in life, like the joy of children.
There is more I could say, but we will end their today. Below is a list of the events of each day of Holy Week with scripture references to them. I encourage you to check them out and meditate on them this week. God bless and thanks for reading.
- Arrival in Bethany (John 12:1)
- Evening celebration, Mary anoints Jesus (John 12:2-8; cf. Matt. 26:6-13)
- Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-18)
- Jesus surveys the temple area (Mark 11:11)
- Return to Bethany (Matt. 21:17; Mark 11:11)
- Cursing the fig tree on the way to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:18-22; cf. Mark 11:12-14)
- Clearing the Temple (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17)
- Miracles and challenges in the Temple (Matt. 21:14-16; Mark 1:18)
- Return to Bethany (Matt. 21:17; Mark 11:19)
- Reaction to cursing the fig tree on the way back to Jerusalem (Matt. 21:20-22; Mark 11:20-21)
- Debates with religious leaders in Jerusalem and teaching in the temple (Matt. 21:23—23:39; Mark 11:27—12:44)
- Eschatological Discourse on the Mount of Olives on the return to Bethany (Matt. 24:1—25:46; Mark 13:1-37)
- “Silent Wednesday” – Jesus and disciples remain in Bethany for last time of fellowshipJudas returns alone to Jerusalem to make arrangements for the betrayal (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11)
- Preparations for Passover (Matt. 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16)
- (After sundown) Passover meal and Last Supper (Matt. 26:20-35; Mark 12:17-25)
- (After sundown) Upper room discourses (John 13—17)
- (After sundown) Prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42)
Friday Sometime perhaps after midnight:
- Betrayal and Arrest (Matt. 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-50)
- Jewish trial – Jesus appears in three phases in front of: Annas (John 18:13-24), Caiaphas and partial Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:57-75; Mark 14:53-65), Sanhedrin fully assembled (perhaps after sunrise) (Matt. 27:1-2; Mark 15:1)
- Roman trial – Jesus appears in three phases before:
- Pilate (Matt. 27:2-14; Mark 15:2-5)
- Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6-12)
- Pilate (Matt. 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-14)
- Crucifixion (approx. 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Matt. 27:27-66; Mark 15:16-39)
- Resurrection witnesses (Matt. 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12)
- Resurrection appearances (Matt. 28:9-20; Luke 24:13-53; John 20-21)
*This list was complied by Dr. Michael J. Wilkins, who I studied under at Talbot School of Theology and can be found in his commentary on the gospel of Matthew in the NIV Application Commentary series.