Yesterday was Palm Sunday; we lined the streets of Jerusalem with the adoring crowds and acclaimed our coming Lord. “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” We waved the palms, we rejoiced that salvation had come, we rejoiced that Holy Week had come. Today is Monday, Holy Monday, the second day in this most holy of weeks. Christ is in Jerusalem, the lamb awaiting slaughter, and we wait with Him. We wait, and we pray, we meditate on God’s Word. In the three-year Lutheran lectionary, the first three days of Holy Week are dedicated to reading a passion narrative in its entirety. Today, on Monday, we read from Saint Matthew
Matthew is a catechist, a teacher. His Gospel is organized around five great discourses of Jesus, each intended to lead us to understand the truths of the faith. When it comes to the Passion of our Lord, the discourses are over, but Matthew ever remains the teacher. He gives us signposts, events and words from Jesus and from His enemies that teach us what this suffering and death means. The first is the most important: the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus wants us to view His suffering and death through the lens of the Lord’s Supper. Specifically, the Lord’s Supper teaches us why Christ died. “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The next signpost is Barabbas, the murderer who is freed in Pilate’s attempt to placate the crowd. Barabbas is you and me; he was condemned to death, but Jesus dies in his place, just as He died in your place and mine. Finally, when Pilate declares himself innocent of Christ’s blood, the people cry out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” In their violent hate, they express a great truth; Christ’s blood does cover them, it covers you and me, forgiving all our sins and presenting us before His Father clothed in His righteousness. That is the gift of the cross; that is what Holy Week is all about.