What we’ve missed in Holy Week

Fight Like Jesus: How Jesus Waged Peace Throughout Holy Week by Jason Porterfield (Herald Press, 2022) Fight Like Jesus: How Jesus Waged Peace Throughout Holy Week by Jason Porterfield (Herald Press, 2022)

People were throwing stones at us. This shocked me. The fact that the stone-throwers were children did not lessen my anger.

I was a missionary kid with Mennonite Central Committee in the Philippines, playing tennis with my brother. We did not appreciate having stones pelted down at us from the Filipino children watching from a wall at the side of the court.

Perhaps you have not had stones thrown at you. But other troubling things might have happened.

Maybe a close friend betrayed your trust. Maybe your efforts to help people have been met with criticism. Maybe systems of injustice leave you surrendering to despair. Maybe conflict within your family has made you bitter.

How can we see these situations as opportunities to wage peace? How can we learn to face conflict in a way different from the world?

My friend Jason Porterfield has written a book that can help us answer these questions. He founded the Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor team in Jakarta, Indonesia, and I had the privilege of meeting him and his family there years ago.
In his book Fight Like Jesus: How Jesus Waged Peace Throughout Holy Week, Porterfield proposes that Jesus’ last week of life has profound lessons for us about how to wage peace.

Though Holy Week is a special time in the life of the church, we seem to have missed many of the things Jesus wanted to teach us during his most important days.

On Palm Sunday, as the crowds rallied around Jesus — crying “Hosanna!” — what was Jesus doing? Weeping. Jesus was crying over Jerusalem and lamenting, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! (Luke 19:42).

In our reading of Scripture and remembrance of Palm Sunday, too often we are hollering with the crowd, not asking our Savior why he is weeping.

Each chapter of Fight Like Jesus ­examines one day of Holy Week. This makes it an effective study tool to use individually or as a church during Lent and leading up to Easter.

Porterfield invites the reader into a careful study of biblical texts. He offers real-life examples and applications for peacemaking. He shares about his own struggle to be a peacemaker and how his times of ministry in inner-city settings have led him on this journey of learning from Jesus.

His experiences in the notorious Downtown Eastside neighborhood of Vancouver, B.C., as well as his heart for work in the slums of Jakarta, help root his reading of Scripture and teaching in concrete experiences.

This book is not only for those who already consider themselves nonviolent peacemakers. It is for all followers of Jesus to take a deeper look at the events of Holy Week and see what we have been missing. Even for someone like me, who grew up Mennonite, soaked in pacifist teachings, Porterfield offers fresh insights and helpful reflections. I believe it will also challenge and inspire those who have never considered how to apply Jesus’ call to peacemaking in their lives.

When Jesus was brought before the Roman authorities, Pilate gave the crowd a choice of two prisoners to be released: Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Barabbas. Jesus Barabbas was being held for leading a violent insurrection. Not surprisingly, the crowds chose ­Jesus Barabbas — hoping for a Messiah who would violently kick out the Roman oppressors. Would we have chosen differently?

On that sunny afternoon in the Philippines some 20 years ago, I had a few options about how to respond. I could have yelled at the disrespectful kids and threatened them. Or, I could choose a different way — the way of Jesus. I climbed up the fence by the wall where the kids were and used my limited Tagalog to talk with the children. That small gesture somehow turned stone-throwers into friends and left a lasting impression on me.

The way of Jesus is vastly different from the way of the world. Will we choose the way of Jesus of Nazareth or the way of Jesus Barabbas? Fight Like Jesus points us toward the radical vision of peacemaking Jesus embodied during Holy Week.

Grace Prasetyo is a 2010 alum of Eastern Mennonite University. She spent her high school years in the Philippines while her parents served with Mennonite Central Committee.

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