This week is referred to as Holy Week in the life of the church. It is the week in which we go from the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem through his death, and ultimately to resurrection.
And all through this week, there is conflict.
It starts with Jesus entry into Jerusalem. It is a conflict of expectations. Jesus enters the city on a donkey by himself. Where is his army that will free Jerusalem from the Romans? Are they hiding in the hills waiting to strike? The people cheer “Hosanna” – set us free. They claim it in reference to their bondage to Rome. But Jesus knows their bondage is much greater than just Rome – it is the bondage of sin and death. He comes to set them free from sin and death. Rome will fall, but it’s just not nearly as important as conquering sin and death – things that have been around much longer than Rome and will be around longer than Rome could ever hope for.
The conflict continues – Jesus goes to the temple. He flips the tables of the money changers. He fashions a whip and drives the animals out. This causes a stir – will a riot break out? The temple authorities are exposed as being nothing more than agents of the empire – existing to maintain the status quo of oppression.
The conflict continues – Judas, one of the twelve who follows Jesus, agrees to hand Jesus over in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. The conflict comes to a head during supper on Thursday of this week and culminated with the kiss of betrayal in the garden. A sword is wielded and an ear is cut off.
The conflict continues – Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin for a trial. He is spat on. Heresy is proclaimed. Blood is desired. Jesus is turned over to the empire for the death penalty.
The conflict continues – Pilate and the crowd disagree on how severely to punish Jesus. But the anger of the crowd is more powerful than the empire’s puppet authority. Blood is desired. Hatred is unleashed.
The conflict continues – As Jesus hangs on the cross, there are two criminals crucified with him. One insults Jesus. The other tells him to knock it off.
All week long, there is conflict. Jesus’ very being and presence causes conflict.
Yesterday I saw this conflict play out in many ways in our own time. Conflict over politics. Conflict over policies. Conflict through insults. Conflict in comments on articles. Degrading other people. The world is addicted to conflict. It is like a drug.
And here we are – Holy Week. The conflict ramps up. We are called to a different way of living and interacting. Not in conflict, but rather the way of self-emptying peace. Peace isn’t a destination. It is a way of being. A way of being that is different from the way the world prefers to operate.
Peace also isn’t avoiding conflict either. It isn’t turning a blind eye to conflict and injustice. Peace is staying in the midst of it and offering something that conflict can’t offer – new life. Throughout the Holy Week, Jesus never runs away – he faces the conflict head on. And keeps offering new life, over and over again. Some take him up on the offer. And other reject him and what he has to offer.
We live in a conflicted world and a conflicted time. But the reign of God is unfolding in our midst. The time of conflict will end. Peace is reigning. It shows itself. Often we only embrace it when we are tired of conflict. Better then than never. Peace stands in the midst of conflict, especially this week. It doesn’t run away. And those who offer peace will shake conflict and those addicted to it to their very core. But those who embrace peace will keep going forward, offering peace to all. Peace is a vision of new life.