Today is Palm Sunday, and so begins our journey with Jesus from Jerusalem’s gate to Golgotha’s cross to Easter’s triumph.
In this Holy Week, we begin with “Hosanna,” walk solemnly toward “Crucify him,” and finish elatedly with, “He is risen!”
Here we see Jesus’s love for us in every intentional step. In one sense, every step he ever took was for us. He was born to die. He came to give his life. His public ministry was ever a steady drumbeat toward Calvary. But in his last week, the quickly moving story begins to run in slow motion. Roughly half the Gospel accounts are dedicated to chronicle these final days.
Five years ago, John Piper wrote a memorable Holy Week meditation on Jesus’s intentionality and intensity. As intentional as were his steps toward death, so intense was his love for us.
If he was intentional in laying down his life, it was for us. It was love. Every step on the Calvary road meant, “I love you.”
And so to feel more deeply the love of Jesus for us, it helps to see more clearly how intentional he was in doing it. Here are the five ways Piper mentions for seeing Jesus’s intentionality in dying for us.
1) Jesus himself made choices precisely to fulfill the Scriptures.
“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52–54)
2) Jesus repeatedly expressed his commitment to go to Jerusalem — into the very jaws of the lion.
“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:33–34)
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51)
3) Jesus spoke of his suffering in the words of Isaiah.
“I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)
4) Jesus handled the injustice of it all by trusting his Father.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
5) Jesus was under no constraint, but acted completely voluntarily.
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18)
When John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16), we should feel the intensity of his love for us to the degree that we see his intentionality to suffer and die. I pray that you will feel it profoundly. (The Intensity of Christ’s Love and the Intentionality of His Death)
May his love for you be evident in every intentional step we track this Holy Week.