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Lesson 3: Holy Week

Ultimately, in the battle against lies and violence, truth and love have no other weapon than the witness of suffering.

– Pope Benedict XVI

Devotion: Read Matthew 26:57-68 and 27:1-2, 11-26. Everyone who encounters Jesus over these terrible days has an agenda. Their personal agendas inhibit their ability to hear the truth he teaches. What is the agenda of the Jewish religious leaders? What emotions drive them? What is Pilate’s agenda during his encounter with Jesus? Why does Pilate decide to allow Jesus to be crucified when he knows he is innocent? Does the crowd have an agenda? Why do we often take our leaders’ priorities as our own? Does a worshipping congregation have an agenda? What is your agenda regarding your faith journey? Why does being unaware of our deeper desires lead to destruction?

Personal Worship Option: Read Jeremiah 6:13-15. Everyone struggles with sin. There are no perfect people, and even heroes of the faith and church leaders sin. The degree to which we hold power and influence over others is the degree to which our sinful actions can damage them. Spend time today praying for those in positions of authority and power over others.

Dig A Little Deeper:

26:59 They must look for “false testimony” in order to find something punishable by death. The Law will not allow them to simply kill Jesus. Nothing he has done has been a capital offense.

25:61 Jesus does not say anything like this in Matthew. Compare this to John 2:13-22.

26:64 Scholars disagree if Jesus’ words “you have said so” is the equivalent of “yes, I am” or the more noncommittal “you are the one who believes I have said this.”

“Seated at the right hand of Power” (Ps 110:1) is a way of saying he will occupy a place of judgment over them one day. “On the clouds of heaven” (Dan 7:13) refers to the future time when God brings time to a close. Jesus maintains silence throughout most of these proceedings, but when he speaks, he states that he will be vindicated by God in the future.

26:65 In some forms of Judaism, the appropriate response to hearing or seeing a violation of the Law is to tear one’s clothing, a symbol of great grief. “Blasphemy” is a term used to describe someone claiming divinity or some aspect of divinity.

27:2 The Jewish religious leaders hand Jesus over to Pilate because in occupied territories, only Roman authorities can declare someone guilty of a capital crime and put them to death.

27:16 Barabbas (“son of the father”) is a zealot (Mk 15:7), a revolutionary who seeks to overthrow Rome.

27:24 Although Pilate seems to have the power in this situation, he is as fearful of a rebellion as the religious authorities are. Rome will quickly replace any governor unable to maintain control over his territory. Does all worldly power come with fear of losing that power?

27:25 The cry “his blood be on us and on our children” represents the crowd gathered that day, not all Jewish people. Sadly this verse has been used by anti-Semitic Christians to attack and kill countless innocent Jews.

27:26 The goal is to dissuade people from challenging Rome’s authority. Those who rebel face the terrible pain of beatings, scourging, and crucifixion.  

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