INTRODUCING THE CHARACTERS
Context is crucial to understanding the people and events of Jesus’ passion. This week, we will set the stage by introducing the protagonist of the drama, Jesus himself. We will consider passages in which the heart of Jesus is revealed: his relationship with his Father in the power of the Spirit. And we will explore his mission to seek and to save the lost.
We will also encounter his antagonists. World-wide opposition to the rule of God resides actively in every human heart. That opposition expressed itself in the particular resistance of the religious leaders who opposed Jesus. There was, however, a power behind the face of his enemies, the Evil One, who has ever tempted humanity toward the destruction that is sin.
Finally, we will see the high stakes and heartfelt struggle Jesus went through as he entered the Holy City to reclaim its allegiance. Jerusalem and its crowds from around the world form the tableau in which our redemption, Christ’s Passover, would be worked out.
In 1320, Pietro Lorenzetti breathed fresh, colorful life into his rendering of the traditional icon of Jesus’ triumphal entry. We can see the moment when humanity joined creation in acknowledging that the king of all had come to us. We rejoiced in his humility, to ride on a donkey. And we exulted in his majesty. He was worthy of our praises, short-lived though they will prove to be.
Day 1 Sunday
Begin by reading aloud the purpose of the Scriptures:
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1: 3).
Of course, Jesus is the main character on the stage of Passion Week. But he is always oriented toward an invisible character: the Father. Everything Jesus does and says flows from his ardent, intimate love for him. To understand Jesus, we have to grasp how the Father/Son relationship is at the heart of this story.
FOLLOWING THE SCRIPT
John 4: 34
My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
John 5: 19-20
The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.
John 6: 38
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my will but the will of him who sent me.
John 10: 30
I and the Father are one.
John 14: 31
I do as the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
John 17: 24b
. . . you loved me before the foundation of the world.
In his every word and action, Jesus’ heart beats for his Father. Love for his Father is the constant backdrop of Jesus’ ministry. He is the backbone of Jesus’ faithfulness through his trials. The Father is the central, yet invisible character in the drama of Passion Week.
In today’s passages, we see that Jesus feeds on doing his Father’s will. Obeying God sustains him. It’s the very source of his vision and his labor.
Jesus never wanted to do anything except to imitate the character of his heavenly Father through his faithful, earthly humanity. There’s a wonderful, boy-like feeling to his words, “Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Like Father, like Son. The two are so close that Jesus can say they are one. This love story he tells precedes the foundation of the world!
To understand the drama of Passion Week, let’s consider:
God is love (1 John 4: 8). Love means relationship. The one God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God exists as an eternal relationship of love. The divine persons ever give themselves to one another in creative, uninhibited love. A chief quality of love is that it brings forth life. From this Triune love, the world was made.
The Father spoke the world into being through the Word that is his Son (Col. 1: 16) and shaped that world into its intended form through his creating Spirit (Gen. 1: 2). Humanity was meant for a life of flourishing relationship with God and one another as we exercised a benevolent dominion over creation.
Yet, the Triune God’s good world fell into darkness and death through human sin.
To save his creation, for our sake, the eternal Son entered the world as one of us in Jesus.
In Jesus, that eternal relationship of love between the Father and the Son was lived out in our world as Jesus the man loved and served and worshiped his Father.
Jesus loved his Father in perfect faithfulness, fulfilling what humanity was always meant to be. This was, and is, his passion.
PRAYING IN CHARACTER
Today, let’s step into the character of Jesus by taking words he prayed on our lips. Pray aloud these prayers of Jesus several times. Step into Jesus’ passion for his Father. Pray with him in order to know the heartbeat of his life. As you do so, imagine Jesus speaking to his Father in various situations:
At Jesus’ baptism as he consecrates himself for ministry,
Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book (Hebrews 10: 7, Psalm 40: 7-8).
As Jesus rejoices when his disciples return from healing and preaching in his name,
I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will (Luke 10: 21).
As Jesus prepares for his arrest and trial:
[May] they all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me (John 17: 21).
Now connect the gift of these recorded prayers to the intent of the Gospel as you read aloud:
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20: 31).