Once again Jesus came to Bethany. It was about six days before the important Jewish ceremony of Passover. During Passover, Jews from all around the world returned to Jerusalem to sacrifice a Passover lamb and remember how God had rescued the Israelites from Egypt!
The Passover had been the last and greatest sign God had performed in Egypt as He’d prepared for His people to be set free from slavery. On the night of that first Passover, every Israelite family had to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on the doorposts and lintel of their house and stay inside, dressed and ready to leave Egypt. Then, at about midnight, the angel of death went through the whole land of Egypt to kill the first-born son in every household. But, whenever he came to a house with the blood of a lamb smeared on the doorposts and lintel, he would know that there had already been a death in that house, the death of a lamb in place of the first-born son, and so the angel of death would ‘pass over’ that house and go onto the next. This way, all Israel was saved from the loss of their sons by obeying God’s command to sacrifice a lamb in their place. (PAUSE)
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethany, they stayed with Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead, and a meal was served in Jesus’ honour. Jesus knew what was ahead of Him, and even though this was a celebration, the atmosphere was heavy as Jesus thought about what was to come.
While Jesus was eating His meal lying with his head towards the table and His feet pointing away as was the custom at that time, Mary, Lazarus’ sister, came to His feet with a large jar of very expensive perfume. Then, breaking the seal on the jar, Mary poured the perfume over Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair - filling the house with fragrance.
Somehow Mary understood how Jesus felt and so she did this beautiful thing for Him. But not everyone who watched understood or cared about what was happening. It was Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples, who spoke up. ‘What does that woman think she’s doing?’ he exclaimed. ‘That perfume was worth a small fortune. We – we could have sold it and given the money to the poor instead of wasting it on Jesus’ feet!’ Not that Judas cared for the poor, he was just horrified to see all that money ‘go to waste’ as he thought. You see, Judas was in charge of looking after the disciples’ funds, and as well as ‘looking after’ the money, he also made sure he ‘looked after’ himself, stealing money when he thought no one was looking!
But Jesus turned to those who were unhappy with what had just happened and replied, ‘Leave her alone. Mary has done this in preparation for my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but I won’t be with you much longer.’ (PAUSE)
Now Jerusalem was only a couple of miles away, and when all the people who’d come for the Passover celebrations heard that Jesus was in Bethany, they flocked to see him and to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. (P)
The next day, Jesus made preparations to go to Jerusalem. Calling two of His disciples to one side He said to them, ‘You see that village over there? I want you to go into that village and as you enter it you’ll see a young colt – a young donkey that’s never been ridden before - tied up by the side of the road. Untie it and bring it here to me. Should anyone ask you what you’re doing, tell them, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back soon.’
The two disciples did what Jesus said, and sure enough, as they entered the village they found a young donkey that had never been ridden before tied up outside a house. As they started to untie it, some of the people standing nearby demanded, ‘What do you think you’re doing untying that colt – it’s not yours.’ After the briefest glance at each other, the two disciples told them exactly what Jesus had said to say, ‘The Lord needs it and He’ll send it back soon.’ At that the bystanders let them take the donkey to Jesus. (P) Bringing the colt to Him, His disciples threw their cloaks over it, and Jesus sat on it, riding towards Jerusalem. (P)
Although people didn’t realise it at the time, Jesus was fulfilling a prophecy that said: ‘Do not be afraid, people of Israel. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’ But it wouldn’t be until after Jesus had gone back to heaven that they’d start to understand. (PAUSE)
The crowds thought Jesus was the Messiah and expected Him to be a warrior king and to take over the country and get rid of the Romans. But Jesus wanted to show them that their ideas of what the Messiah would be like were wrong. So instead of coming to Jerusalem on a warhorse, He chose a simple colt – refusing to be the kind of Messiah the crowd wanted!
By now the crowds were very large, and as Jesus made His way to Jerusalem, they threw their cloaks on the road ahead of Him, and they went into the fields to cut palm branches to wave. And as the procession reached the place on the road where it descends from the Mount of Olives, His followers started to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for the wonderful miracles they’d seen.
‘Bless the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’ they shouted. ‘Bless the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David! Praise God in highest heaven!’ (P)
As usual some of the Pharisees had come along to find fault with Jesus. And when they heard the crowd shouting these things they couldn’t believe their ears! So shouting across to Jesus they said, ‘Teacher! Tell your followers off for saying such things!’
But Jesus shouted back, ‘If they were to keep quiet, the stones along the side of the road would burst into shouts of joy!’
And so, as the Pharisees watched the procession and saw the huge crowd that had come to see Jesus, they said to each other, ‘That’s it, we’ve lost! The whole world’s gone after Him now!’