Monday of Holy Week
As we begin Holy Week, the gospel readings tell the story of the increasing conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of His time. Today’s gospel reading mentions that they are planning to kill Jesus (and Lazarus as well) because many of the Jews were “turning away and believing in Jesus.” What exactly were these people turning away from, and what are the things in our lives that we need to turn away from to become disciples of Jesus?
In the gospel reading from John, we hear the story about Jesus’ visit to see His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (who Jesus had previously raise d from the dead.) The chief priests recognized the significance of Lazarus being raised from the dead, and they saw many of the Jews seeking Jesus and His message. The chief priests noted that the crowds were “turning away” and believing in Jesus in greater numbers. Although Jesus is a Jew, His preaching focused on God’s love, mercy and healing. The chief priests were concerned that the Jewish people will leave behind the many practices from the Mosaic Law and follow Jesus and His new ideas. This turning away to a new leader (Jesus) who teaches with authority not only would weaken the power of the chief priest, but they were also concerned that the Roman leaders may view these shifts as a threat to the status quo.
So what was Jesus calling them to turn away from? The first reading from Isaiah describes the prophesy of the “servant whom I uphold… upon whom I have put my Spirit… who shall bring forth justice to the nations.” These words point to Jesus and His life and ministry. The reading continues to describe God and the relationship with His people. He “grasps“them by the hand and calls them forth as a covenant and a light for the nations. God’s people are called to open the eyes of the blind, to bring freedom to prisoners, and light to those who live in darkness. The Jewish people who are ”turning away” and following Jesus are the very people who God is holding out His hand to guide them in His ways of love. They are leaving behind laws that say “an eye for an eye” and walking towards a world where love, forgiveness, and compassion are the foundation. Jesus invites them to “follow Him” so others can have eyes to see the goodness of His message, and so all people can live in freedom. By turning away from their old beliefs they are becoming “a light for the nations,” so all people will know God’s love and presence in the world.
As we enter Holy Week and Lent draws to a close, how is God calling us to “turn away” and follow Jesus? Is God calling us to be less judgmental of those who have different opinions than we do? Is He calling us to be better at listening and loving instead of condemning? Are there issues in our society that need our voice to help bring justice for those oppressed? Can we turn away from our fears and step out to take action and bring the “victory of justice” to our world? Is God calling us to turn away from ways of living that place greed and pride before the needs and concerns of others? Although these may seem like insurmountable changes, we have been given God’s Spirit to guide us. As disciples of Christ we become light for the nations when we imitate Jesus in our thoughts, words and deeds. As we walk with Jesus over the next week through His passion, death and resurrection, may we turn away from all that prevents us from living our lives with Him, for Him and in Him.
Loving Father, you sent Jesus to share Your message of mercy and love. Through Your Spirit empower our lives, so we can also bring light, justice and freedom to those we encounter every day. We pray this through Christ our LORD. Amen.