“Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” - Mark 11:11 (From the Reading Mark 11:1-11)
I am still thinking about the Scripture passage from our Palm Sunday service that opens the door into this Holy Week. There is so much that can be said about this week and how it started on Sunday with Palm Sunday. It’s hard to know where to begin and how to make sense of it all. But here’s what I wonder. The Holy Week story is not a story to be explained or understood. It is a story to be embodied and lived. It is a week to slow down, re-group, and take a look around at everything.
Isn’t that what Jesus does?
No other gospel account describes this. Only Mark offers us the opportunity to look around at everything. In Matthew’s account of the gospel Jesus immediately enters and cleanses the temple, driving out those who bought and sold, and overturning the moneychangers’ tables. According to Luke Jesus sees the city Jerusalem and weeps over it. Then he enters the temple and drives out the den of thieves, those who bought and sold. And in John’s account it’s not clear if Jesus even enters the temple. Instead, the focus is on Jesus teaching about the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. Not so for Mark.
At the end of the donkey ride, when the shouting is over and the last cloaks and palms have been thrown down, Jesus enters the temple, looks around at everything, and then leaves.
It’s a strange and anticlimactic ending to what is known as the triumphal entry. Maybe, however, it’s necessary. If that’s what Jesus does maybe we should too. Maybe we need to look around at everything before we go any further into this week.
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life. It was the center of the religious, social, political, and economic structure. The temple stands at the center of the center. It is the heart of Jewish life. That means that when Jesus entered the temple and “looked around at everything” he was looking into the very heart of the people.
There are moments in each of our lives - big moments, threshold moments, life changing moments - when we need to slow down, maybe even stop, and consider what it is that we’re getting into. Are we ready for this? What does it mean? We look around.
I have seen this looking around in the eyes of others. I have seen that look a few times at the wedding rehearsal, a dry run to find out where the x is marked on the floor of where to stand and to get our cues before everybody rushes off to dinner. But just before they go, I have seen that look sometimes by the bride, sometimes by the groom as they look over their shoulder at the empty room that will be filled tomorrow with friends and family. Their momentary reflective look is as if they are looking for confirmation that they are making the right step into their future. Maybe you know of the looking around, the one that happens during the final walk through of the house has the pencil marks on the closet door marking the growth of your children, long since grown. You look around one final time with the sweep that not only takes in the square footage but the years before you close the door and continue with the process of downsizing and paring down your life. Newspaper reports reported that reflective look when Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida came to the podium yesterday at the March for Our Lives in D.C. She spoke for just under two minutes describing the effects of gun violence in emotional detail and then recited the names of those who had been killed. Then she stood and said nothing for 4 minutes and 26 seconds, looking around at the crowd through watery eyes. She knew what this moment meant and what is being asked of her and what is being asked of us.
Holy Week is about real life stuff and it hits close to home.
Are we ready for this? What does it mean? Do I have what it takes? Is this really what I want? Am I prepared for what is to come? Can I see it through to the end?
I don’t think Jesus just looked around at everything, turned away, and then left. I think he looked at everything so that he might take it with him and carry it through this holy week. So must we.
What are the things done and left undone, that chain you to the past? (It has been said that you can’t claim a future that is stuck in the past?) What are your regrets? What scares you? Is your heart filled with loss, sorrow, grief? Where is your life overcome by darkness? Take a look around at everything in your heart. What do you give yourself to? What are you going to bear witness to and stop standing by on the sidelines as an observer of your life?
Jesus left nothing behind. We mustn’t either. What we refuse to look at and bring to this week cannot be healed, cannot be restored, renewed, re-created, or resurrected. So what will you carry into this week? What will you bring and offer?