The Choices We Make
Jesus moves towards the crisis point of Easter – Holy Week
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore understanding of the consequences of individual choices of words or actions (SEAL theme: Motivation).
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three readers.
- Have available the TrueTube video The Last Supper and the means to show it during the assembly (available at: www.truetube.co.uk/film/last-supper). It is 2.07 minutes long.
- Also have available the song ‘Undecided’ by Natalie Cole and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
Leader Easter will soon be upon us. This festival commemorates events that Christians believe took place in the city of Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. Jesus was tried and executed, but then, remarkably, returned to life. It's the central event of his life and lies at the heart of Christian belief, but it wasn't an inevitable event – at least, not in human terms.
What if Jesus had remained away from the city?
Jerusalem was where his enemies had their centre of power. The temple there represented everything that the Jewish religious establishment stood for. The Roman authorities had their garrison stationed there, ready to put down any hint of rebellion or rabble-rousing.
If Jesus had remained in the more remote towns and cities of Palestine, he may have been an irritant to those in power, but he probably wouldn't have provoked the response that he did. Jesus provoked the events of Easter – he made the choice to enter Jerusalem and confront those who opposed the teaching he believed came from God his Father.
Show the TrueTube video The Last Supper.
Palm Sunday is exactly one week before Easter Day. Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' very public entry in to the city of Jerusalem. He was surrounded by his supporters, chanting like a football crowd, proclaiming him to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
When the religious leaders asked Jesus to tell them to be quiet and stop their offensive chanting, his reply was that, even if the people were quiet, the stones along the road would start to chant instead. Jesus was openly provocative and confrontational.
Then he went to the temple itself. Within the temple courts were stalls for worshippers to exchange their money for special temple currency. As in all currency exchange, there was a surcharge to pay and the dealers were making a huge profit. Other stalls sold birds and animals to be offered as sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin. Again, the mark-up was huge and these sellers, too, were making huge profits.
Jesus tackled the issue of this corruption head on. He turned over the stalls, accused the owners of being thieves who were doing crooked business in his Father's house. Maybe it was this final statement that was the most provocative. If the temple was God's house, then he was saying pretty clearly that he regarded himself as God's son.
It's no surprise that Jesus ended up getting arrested. He'd been so direct and provocative that the religious authorities had to act. Jesus gave them no alternative.
What are you like when a problem arises? Which of these responses do you identify with?
Reader 1 I like to keep the peace at all costs. I'd rather people walked all over me than cause confrontation. I can't stand arguments.
Reader 2 I need to have things out straight away. I can't handle unresolved issues. They keep me awake at night. I think you should put all your cards on the table and get ready to handle the consequences.
Reader 3 I'm on the lookout for a third party, someone who can mediate, listen to both sides and try to help us reach a compromise. I'm not big enough to handle this on my own.
Leader There are no wrong answers here. There may be various times and places when all of these are the appropriate responses to those situations. What would be wrong, however, would be to always respond in the same way every time – to always avoid confrontation, always provoke confrontation or always leave it to someone else to sort out.
Jesus provoked the confrontation in the week leading up to Easter. It was the appropriate response, part of a bigger plan, and he was willing to face the consequences.
In the end, thinking through the consequences can be the key to which response we make to any one situation.
Reader 1 There's a consequence to avoiding confrontation. We may keep the peace, but at the cost of our own freedom. That's what bullies depend on, for example.
Reader 2 There's a consequence to provoking confrontation. We may clear the air, but things may have been said and done that cannot be taken back.
Reader 3 Third parties can misunderstand and misjudge. They may even make the situation worse.
Time for reflection
So what do we do about the unresolved issues we're facing right now? They may involve a relationship, something we haven't done, an injustice we feel has been committed, a wrong that needs to be put right. They may be big, they may be small.
Let's not spring into action straight away. Let's pause, think of the alternative responses and then act in clear knowledge of what the best consequences might be and aim to achieve those.
Thank you for the freedom of choice open to us.
Remind us of every alternative when there is a difficult decision to make.
Help us to be wise, brave and humble in what we decide to do and say.
‘Undecided’ by Natalie Cole