Sunday was Palm Sunday and the start of the Holy Week to those of us in the Christian faith.
Holy Week is an annual occasion for all of us, in the simplest of terms, to reflect on the final week of Jesus’ life. It’s a time for all Christians to prepare our hearts and minds to visualize and imagine the agony of His passion and the joy of his resurrection. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
Jesus sent two disciples ahead into the village of Bethpage, about a mile away from Jerusalem. He told them to look for a donkey tied by a house, with its unbroken colt next to it. He instructed the disciples to tell the owner of the colt “that the Lord had need of them.” The donkey and its colt were delivered to Jesus, and the disciples’ cloaks were placed upon the young donkey. Jesus rode the colt slowly, humbly and triumphantly into the city. As He entered through the East gate, the large Passover crowds were waiting for Him, spreading their cloaks and Palm branches on the street, waving the palms in the air shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest” (The word “hosanna” means “save now”). The people were recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah, and also hoping He would free Israel from its oppression by the Romans. The Pharisees also held a powerful grip on the Jewish society in those days as well, stifling dissent through fear. By entering the city as He did, Jesus had also fulfilled the ancient prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. This was the only time that is mentioned in the Gospels that Jesus ever rode an animal. A donkey — a symbol of peace and peaceful intentions — normally is reserved for kings and noblemen. The laying of palm branches indicated that the king or nobleman was arriving in victory or triumph.
The image of His “humility and character” as He entered the city made Him truly a model of servant-leadership, and in that role, He set an example for all of us to follow. Those Holy Week events would offer all of us, all the people since then and all those ahead of us throughout eternity, the opportunity to know the most infallible and purest examples of integrity, character, humility, servant leadership, behavior towards others, grace and peace to live by.
Leadership is a fascinating topic especially in today’s terms. Business studies offer models of leadership in great diversity from Attila the Hun, the drill sergeant approach, to the calm wisdom and application of perhaps Abraham Lincoln or Ben Franklin. But Jesus painted a different picture of leadership.
On what we have come to know as “Maundy Thursday,” which comes at the high point of Holy Week, Jesus was wrapping up His work and held a Passover dinner for His closest friends, His disciples. Instead of delivering a keynote speech or naming a successor, He chose to leave His seat at the head of the table and pick up servant’s equipment … a bowl of water and a towel. He then washed the feet of every person at the table — even Judas. This act was considered subservient by most of that day, and leaders wouldn’t stoop to do such things … but Jesus did. Seated once again at the table, Jesus asked His guests if they truly understood what he had done. He told them to adopt the same posture of serving others by His example. He assured them that they always would be blessed if they did.
When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He demonstrated a fundamental principal to follow in His footsteps. It is as true today as then in our personal and business lives and also in the church.
No amount of memos, rules and speeches requesting greater commitment of people, clients, business and church members will have as powerful of a Godly impact as a person who consistently and clearly has the heart and attitude of a servant. This means placing others’ needs before our own, committing oneself to accountability for things to meet those needs and looking for neither favors nor reciprocity from those we serve. Jesus indeed established “The Order of the Towel” as a part of our commitment of faith through Him.
Today, as we pray for strength, guidance, wisdom and forgiveness, receive Holy Communion and commemorate the Lord’s supper, let all of us remember that as Christ’s followers, we need to lead others by serving them, as He first showed us.
Scherer is a crisis intervention minister and the leader of the local Stephen Ministry.