Bucket Lists, Holy Week, and Jesus’ Final Days

What would you do or say if you only had one week to live?  Sometimes we talk about having a bucket list—things we’d like to do before we die. If we have such a list, what do the items say about our priorities?

This week is what Christian often call Holy Week. It is the last week of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry before his resurrection as the exalted Christ. Though not commanded in Scripture, setting aside time to reflect on these final days can be helpful for the believer. Reflecting on these days points us to what Jesus’ accomplished in the world. But it can also point to what was important to Jesus.  

Sincere Worship 

One of the first things Jesus did during this week was cleanse the temple. The point was not just the buying and selling, but the motivation and method behind it. It was helpful to buy a sacrifice and exchange money near the temple. But, much like airport shops, the sellers often bilked those coming up for Passover. They had nowhere else to buy and exchange and were forced to pay the increased prices. Moreover, all of this commotion had spread into the court of the Gentiles, effectively boxing them out from worship. The final indignity was that that justified their actions by claiming to do the Lord’s work and offering their own sacrifices to offset any sin!  The temple had become a “den of robbers”—a refuge for those committing crimes—rather than a “house of prayer” (Matt 21:13; cf. Matt 23:1–36).  Jesus cleared this out because he valued what God desires—hearts of sincere worship. 

Love among His Disciples

In the big picture, this is part of our lives of worship. But this is something Jesus emphasized on Thursday evening when he gathered this is disciples. In fact, this is where the term Maundy Thursday comes from. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). The Latin translation of “new commandment” is Mandatum novum.  The commandment to love was not new (Lev 19:18), but the pattern and emphasis was new. Now, God’s people will love from the example Jesus himself gave—both in his life and at the cross.  

Sacrificial Atonement

Jesus predicted the cross during his ministry, especially this last week. Jesus predicted his death on Sunday (John 12:20–36). He also spent time showing how his death would fulfill the Passover (Matt 26:20-–29). During this last supper, he moved from the traditional Passover meal to something new, which Christians would call the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:20). There he explained that the cup represented his sacrifice. He says, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28). The cross was a central focus in Jesus’ life and ministry. Everything he did was preparing him for that moment when he would bear the judgment of sin in place of his people that might be forgiven by God. 

Faith in God

Even as some people shouted Hosanna, Jesus could weep over the lack of faith in Israel (Luke 19:29–44; Matt 23:37–39). This was symbolized in the cursed fig tree (Matt 21:20–22) and would lead many to reject him as the promised Messiah which he described in several parables (Matt 21:23—22:14).  Even on his final night with his disciples, he commanded them to “watch and pray” (Matt 26:41). This is the fruit of faith.  Jesus himself exemplified such faith, such absolute trust in his Heavenly Father, as he stared into the cup of judgment he was about to endure on the cross, yet could say, “your will be done” (Matt 26:42).

What About Us?

We could go into more detail, but these are some big themes that run throughout the Gospels as they recount the final days of Jesus. These are things that were important to him. Where are we on these things?  Are we those who live by faith?  Is that faith based on the sacrifice of Christ for us? And is that faith consistent between what we say we believe and how we live? Are our lives marked by Christlike love for one another? Is our worship sincere?  Do we live for ourselves or routinely, joyfully, faithfully watch and pray, resolving, “not my will, but yours be done?” 

I invite you me in meditating on Jesus’ final days. Be challenged by him. But also rest and rejoice in him and his perfect work as Savior.

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