By Brett D. Heintzman

As followers of Jesus, Holy Week is a blessed — even sacred season of the year. We lean into what Christ did for us on our behalf to secure our salvation, but more than that, we should lean into the character of Christ as we seek to be the image-bearers of Jesus in all the ways we live.

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“The kingdom of God is always countercultural.”

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This Holy Week, I’d like to encourage us to consider Christ’s humility. Humility is a facet of Christlikeness that is often neglected in our individualistic society and culture. We seek to be honored when honor is due, and we love to receive awards and recognition. Otherwise, how will we advance in life if we don’t? Who will recognize us if we don’t draw attention to ourselves?

The kingdom of God is always countercultural. It challenges our worldly ways at every turn and calls us to consider Christ’s ways and character — challenging us to forsake the world and embrace Christ’s ways. Consider the following passage of Scripture:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5–8)

Dying to Self

This Holy Week, let us embrace the mindset of Christ, who did not use His status to His own advantage. Let us consider the ways we leverage what good things should be coming to us. What might we “fast from” this Lent and lay it down? No, better yet, forsake it! How might the world see us differently if we take on the posture of a servant? How might others react if we become obedient to dying to self this Holy Week?

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“The ways of the world are to live to the fullest, but the way of Christ is the way of the cross.”

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The reality is that dying to self is never the convenient way, yet it is the holy way. So first, let’s embrace death to self as our way this Holy Week. The ways of the world are to live to the fullest, but the way of Christ is the way of the cross. Holy Week is a time to embrace the cross.

[S]o he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:4–5)

Service and Love

It was during the final week of Jesus’ life that He decided to love the disciples to the end (John 13:1). So He chose to serve them. Service and love are inextricably linked in the kingdom of God. You can’t love without service, and you can’t truly serve without love.

This Holy Week, how will you serve your fellow humankind? What acts of humble service will reflect Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)? How do you see love and service linked in your life? When we serve without love we likely do it out of duty or even with a grudge. When we love without service, our love has no “teeth” — no true impact. As you embrace Christ this Holy Week, do so embracing loving service to your fellow humankind.

The Triumphal (but Countercultural) Entry

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11)

It’s Palm Sunday, so let’s look to this familiar passage about Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We often read right past some significant details about His entry to Jerusalem and why it was so countercultural in their day. It is full of humility and causes the people to ask, “Who is this?”

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“As you navigate life in today’s culture, do you do so with ‘chariots’ or a simple ‘donkey’?”

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Kings and rulers would always process into their cities full of pomp and splendor. It would have been customary to include chariots, soldiers, and servants, all of whom would make an enormous spectacle of their sovereign ruler. Jesus was indeed a spectacle, but not because of the splendor, but because of the lack thereof. A donkey was a beast of burden, not of stature. His humble clothing was not what would have been expected of a king. No entourage meant there was no one to really draw attention to Him. Yet He came to a city that was His own, to a people who were His own. He did so in humility.

As you navigate life in today’s culture, do you do so with “chariots” or a simple “donkey”? Do you need an entourage to draw attention to yourself, or do you let your humility draw attention to Christ and the Father? Do “trumpets” announce your entrance, or do you seek to walk softly and leave imprints of sandal-bearing feet that tread lightly in today’s haughty world?

Do people see your humility and ask, “Who is this?” What an honor it would be to have that asked of us as with our Lord! What an honor and privilege to bear His likeness this Holy Week.

Consider the Cross

Finally, consider the cross of Christ.

The cross symbolizes shame, guilt, crime, punishment, dishonor, spectacle, and death. It was not glorious. It was public and private, humiliating and humbling. What are you and I to bear? The cross. How often? Daily. How so? As a badge of honor and humility — giving honor to the One who bore the cross before the foundations of the world.

Friends, for those of us who follow Jesus, navigating faith in a changing world, we must do so clothed in humility. Let this Holy Week be a journey of humility for us all. Amen.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)

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Brett D. Heintzman is the publisher of Light + Life and the communications director of the Free Methodist Church USA, which he also serves as the co-director of the National Prayer Ministry. Visit the Light + Life Bookstore to order his books “Becoming a Person of Prayer,” “Vital: Holy People,” “Jericho: Your Journey to Deliverance and Freedom” and “The Crossroads: Asking for the Ancient Paths.”

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