Holy Week Pondering: Monday.
The names given to days during Passion Week (or Holy Week) are somewhat lost in modern times. Palm Sunday and Good Friday are the ones everyone knows. Monday is referred to as Fig Monday traditionally because of the instance where Jesus makes the half-hour trip from Bethany to Jerusalem, sees a fig tree while looking for food, finds none and curses the tree. It is a curious moment to say the least as fig trees would not be fruit bearing at that time of year. The next day the disciples notice the tree completely withered. The instance certainly shows that Jesus has command over things of earth, but shows curiously little else.
Another event happens on the Monday of Holy Week in the New Testament Gospels—Jesus drives out the merchants and moneychangers in the temple courts. There seems to be no clever way to shorten and make a name out of that event. Moneychanger Monday? Clear the Temple Monday. I got nothing. But I think there is something to consider from the day with more merit than Fig Monday.
In the Gospel of Matthew it says, “Early in the morning, as He was on His way back to the city, He was hungry.” (Matt. 21:18) He went to the temple and evidently spent the entire day causing havoc. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus drives out merchants selling, overturns the moneychangers tables, and in Mark 11:16 it says, “He would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.” So he was basically a one-man wrecking crew completely destroying the system. And then in Mark 11:19 it says, “When evening came, they went out of the city.” Jesus spent the whole day upsetting the apple cart.
I have often wondered what the disciples are doing during all this havoc raising. What were they thinking? Could they possibly understand the greater implications? I wish we could know because they probably just stood with mouths agape, utterly astonished.
Historically, palm branches were awarded to champion athletes in ancient Greece. This practice had been in effect since 400 BC and brought to Rome in 293 BC, so it is well-known throughout the Mediterranean region. The palm was a symbol of strength, victory and endurance. The palm branch shows strength, it is hearty and robust. Have you ever tried to tear the leaves from the frond?
Jesus displayed strength and endurance on this occasion, living by His principles and standing firm all day. He said, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matt 21:13) He called people to return to God’s purposes—being a person of relational intimacy with the Father. He modeled that relational intimacy in hundreds of other recorded instances.
So we gain insight about Jesus from three instances on Monday of Holy Week. First, He has command over creation, we learn from the fig tree incident. Second, Jesus is passionate about God’s purposes, we see in His comment about the temple. And third, we see His strength and endurance in controlling the commerce situation in the temple for the entire day. So I propose we add the name Endurance Monday to Passion Week monikers. The palm is a symbol of Jesus’ endurance.
Wandering (and wondering) on Purpose!
Photo by Mick Haupt. Shot on film, Canon A2E. Phoenix, Arizona.