I like the joy of Palm Sunday.
The image of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt while throngs of admirers cheer is wonderful. And, I particularly like the part where the Pharisees tell Jesus to silence his followers and Jesus replies,
“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:40 ESV)
Some of their shouts even echo the words of the Christmas angel: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 ESV)
But it occurs to me that almost everybody at the time did not know what was really going on.
The crowd was hailing the entry into Jerusalem of the Messiah, and that is correct, but they thought Jesus was the King who would finally free Israel from the despised rule of the Romans. They had witnessed him feeding thousands of people on a few crumbs. He had healed the lame. He had brought sight to the blind. He had even raised the dead!
And, when he entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey, they knew He was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. They couldn’t wait for the Messiah, the offspring of David, to overthrow the hated Romans and establish a Jewish government that would have no end to its reign or its peace. (Isaiah 9:6-7 and others.)
That’s why they were shouting, “He saves! He Saves!” and calling Him a King.
Even though their words were exactly correct, they had it wrong.
And the Pharisees had it wrong in that Jesus really was God and their plans to kill him weren't a secret at all. In fact, Jesus’s death and the manner of the death were what God had planned all along.
And the disciples, who have been with Him for three years and have been specifically told that He will be killed… are clueless. (John 12: 16)
But, as I was reading the account of Holy Week, it occurred to me that there might have been one person in the middle of all this confusion and intrigue who understood the situation more clearly than anyone else--
And that was Mary.
Her story is one of the few events described in all four gospels.
While Jesus is being honored with a dinner at Simon the Leper’s house and all the disciples are gathered around, presumably talking and eating… in walks Mary.
She comes up behind Jesus and begins crying on His feet as He is reclining on His side beside the table. She then begins wiping her tears off His dusty and dirty feet with her hair.
I imagine the entire room went silent.
Several sources have pointed out that Jewish women of the time only took their hair down in very private moments.
I imagine it was a very awkward silence.
And then, she breaks open a one-pound jar of pure nard—a perfume so expensive it was valued at the equivalent of a full year’s wages! The thick aroma of the perfume fills the whole house. Indeed, some have conjectured that Jesus probably smelled of this perfume right up until He was crucified later that week.
The disciples can’t take it anymore. They object strenuously. Judas pipes up and complains that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. John records that Judas didn’t care about the poor, as he frequently helped himself to the money in the bag.
Jesus tells the disciple to leave Mary alone because she was anointing His body for burial.
Again, I imagine a very awkward silence.
And that’s why it occurs to me that only Mary understood, at least partially, what was going on that week. Mary alone seems to have believed Jesus’ words that He would be killed quite shortly.
The more I consider it, the more it seems like our world today. On one side of her was a faction with a political plot to eliminate a heretic. On her other side was another group, also with a political objective, to overthrow the ruling class. And a small core around her, while they said they were devoted to Jesus, served Him, and listened to every word He said, really did not understand the full implications of where all this would lead—or what would be required of them.
Her reaction to the events around her was far more emotional and lavish than any of us would be comfortable with on the street corner, in our own homes, or even in our churches on Sunday morning.
And it makes me wonder if my heart is broken like hers was on that day.
And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. (Revelation 5:8 KJV)