Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!
These are the words that the crowd shouted as they waved palm branches while Jesus made his entry into Jerusalem on what we have come to know as Palm Sunday. As we gather for worship this Sunday we will reflect on this story.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of what we call Holy Week or Passion Week. It’s the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday and it’s a week packed with historical events rich in meaning and power. The triumphalentry to Jerusalem; the cleansing of the temple; the clashes with religious leaders; the anointing of Jesus; the Last Supper; the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane; the betrayal by Judas; the denial of Peter; the crucifixion and death of Jesus; the burial; the quiet Saturday; the gift of resurrection and Easter Sunday morning! It’s a week that forever changed our lives!
A few days before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, as the Gospel of John tells the story, Jesus arrives at the home of his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped themwith her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denariiand the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought itso that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
This story from the home of Lazarus is also rich in meaning and power. Although many followers of Jesus did not understood that Jesus must die in order to rescue God’s people and set them free, it seems that Mary understood. At least more deeply than many. She had taken the time in her years with Jesus to sit at his feet, listen deeply to his teaching and absorb the depth of his life and ministry. She had come to know and love Jesus in a way that elicited a surprising and extravagant response. In an act of love Mary anoints the feet of Jesus as a preparation for his coming death and burial. And the fragrance of the perfume she used filled the house just as his life and presence had filled her! And Jesus affirms her extravagant and radical act of love. It touched him deeply.
As I reflect on this story I am reminded of the significance of human friendship and the importance of both ordinary and extravagant acts of love. Lazarus opens his home and sits at the table with Jesus. Martha plans, prepares and hosts a dinner party in honour of Jesus. Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, with a costly bottle of perfume. Others show up to be with Jesus. Each of these actions and all of these actions help prepare Jesus for the greatest act of service and love Jesus is about to offer for the world.
I wonder, what are both the ordinary and extravagant acts of love we can offer to Jesus and to each other? Take time to ponder that question this week. Be reminded that as we offer these acts of love to one another we continue to serve Jesus and we help to prepare each other for the works of ministry God calls us too.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit! (Philemon 25)