Setting the Stage for Holy Week
In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As a result, many more people followed Jesus, and that upset the Jewish leaders. They didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah, and they feared the Romans would see this as a rebellion and destroy their Temple and their nation. The Romans did destroy Jerusalem and the Temple about 40 years later, in 70 AD.
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The newly brought-back-to-life Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, gave a dinner in Jesus’ honor. At the feast, Mary poured costly nard on Jesus’ head and feet. She was criticized for the “waste.” Jesus said she had done a beautiful thing, and to let her “keep it” for the day of his burial. Have you ever been criticized for an extravagant show of love?
Jesus may have meant let her keep the rest of the nard, or he may have meant to let her keep the memory of this intimate experience, or he may have meant both. At any rate, Jesus knew he would soon die, and Jesus treasured Mary’s gift of love. The fragrance lingered all the way to the cross. Our Lord truly treasures all the gifts YOU bring him in love!
The following Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem as a King on a donkey. People waved palms as they did in Old Testament worship, and as Christ followers from all nations will do at the end of time (Revelation 7:9). The Triumphal Entry points to Jesus’ return in glory, when he will still bear his scars, wounds suffered on our behalf: “By his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53).”
So as you celebrate Palm Sunday, know that you worship with all nations around the earth, and with all the Christ-followers in heaven and earth, past, present and future. Know that our King came in love and humility, and that he came to die for us and all creation, that we may be restored.
Here is a responsive Liturgy I wrote for this day:
The King of Glory
Branches wave and children sing,
Hosannas rise like kite-tails.
He is the King of Glory!
A donkey-colt the kingly steed,
tables turned, doves are freed.
He is the King of Glory!
Join the festive throng to meet him!
Open up the gates to greet him!
Who is this King of glory?
The One with nail prints on his palms,
the One we praise with joyful psalms.
Heard and seen, touched, adored,
the Lamb of God,
Christ our Lord.
(©2022 Barbara Bjelland)
Please comment here: how did you celebrate this special day?
The Bible is rich with images and multivalent meanings. Here is a little more background on the Triumphal Entry and the Liturgy I wrote above: