“Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.” – Luke 22:1-2
We Christians have started the holiest week of our year. Yesterday in churches around the world, our congregations waved palms and sang “Hosanna” to remember Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On Thursday, many of us will gather in the shadows for the Last Supper. On Friday we come to the foot of the cross and sing “Were You There?”
This year, the Jewish Passover begins this evening, coinciding with this important Christian week. Tragically this holy time for Christians has historically been a time of holy terror for our Jewish brothers and sisters. A good friend, now in his 80’s, remembers as an Orthodox boy in Brooklyn how his mother kept him indoors on Good Friday to keep him safe from the Christian boys who prowled his neighborhood after their noontime service, looking for Jewish boys to beat up for “killing Christ.”
Jewish-Christian relations have changed, thank God, in the last decades, but as Christians, we still need to pay attention to how we tell the story of Holy Week. Today’s text that begins with the religious leaders’ plot to kill Jesus is a good example. “Chief priests and scribes” are distinctly Jewish terms. Yet the leaders wanted Jesus dead not because they were Jewish, but because they were in power, he threatened that power, and they were afraid. Such fear is not limited to a particular ethnic or religious group. They plotted against him because they were human, not because they were Jewish.
The New Testament scholar and civil rights advocate Clarence Jordan understood that. In his “Cottonpatch Gospel,” Jordan translates “chief priests and scribes” as “denominational executives and secretaries.” Ouch. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to tell the truth—the real truth of this holy story. That the religious leaders did what they did because they were human, just like you and me.
Thank you, God, for this Holy Week and for the truth this journey helps us to tell.