If you had only one week left to live, how would you spend it?
This classic ice breaker question usually is intended to elicit dreams of vacations or altruistic aspirations. I’ve used it to hone in on my priorities – if I only had a week left to live, would I spend it doing ______ (fill in the blank)? For some people, the question feels very real. Though they may have more than a week, people with certain illnesses or injuries have a more obvious end waiting them.
Last week, I spent the week thinking about Jesus’s last week. He was probably the one man in history to know for absolute fact that he had one week to live. He often talked about the “time” or the “hour” that had finally come. And though the disciples and pharisees weren’t sure what he meant, on this side of the cross, we understand that he meant his time and his hour.
What amazes me about the last week of Jesus’s life on earth is that he spent it pretty much like every other week, especially like every other week since he had begun public ministry. During Jesus’s last week, he had dinner with friends, he celebrated religious feasts and traditions, and he confronted his enemies. He also told stories and answered questions, he tried to tell his disciples about what was to come, and he spent some hard hours in prayer. Historically and redemptively, we know this was an extraordinary week. But counted among the other weeks of Jesus’s life, this week was like all the rest.
The way Jesus spent his last week says some really important things to me about my life. For one, though Jesus knew his “hour,” he taught that none of the rest of us really know. For all our medical technology, we still can’t consistently and accurately predict the time of death, even in the most textbook cases of illness. Doctors can come close, but only the Lord knows our hour. In that case, any week could be my last week.
Second, Jesus’ last week has helped me realize that I need to make all my weeks count, to regularly do the things that are most important to me. This sort of litmus test makes the hours I spend surfing the web or watching TV feel really futile.
The third thing Jesus teaches me, though, is that the most important things are not necessarily what we would expect. Jesus didn’t fill his last days with grand gestures or extreme adventures. He just faithfully did the things that had always been important to him, bringing great value and significance to every day things.
When Jesus shared meals with his friends, he reminded us that people should be part of our lives. When he taught his disciples and the crowds, he reminded that that his word is essential to our lives. When our Lord told stories and observed nature, he showed us how to make a place for beauty and creativity in our lives. When he confronted his enemies, he provided a standard for both love and truth. When Jesus set aside time to go to the temple, to pray, and to eat a Passover meal with his disciples, he highlighted our need for seasons and liturgy and worship. And when he did all of these things during the last week of his life, he provided a model for all the weeks of our lives.
That was some week. But so is this one.