In the week leading up to Christ’s Passion, the drama and controversy of events surrounding Him grows more and more intense. The focus for Jesus at this time was His preparations for His approaching imminent and certain death.
Sunday 26th April, AD 33 - Jesus anointed for burial by Mary in the evening (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-11).
“Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him” (John 12:1,2).
It was at the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6).
“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard (in an alabaster flask- Matthew 26:7), anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair (also pouring it on His head as He sat at table - Matthew 26:7).
And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (v3). “Then one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii (a years wages) and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (v4-6).
This mean attitude of Judas showed that He considered Jesus unworthy of worship. He expressed his critical attitude to the other disciples under this ‘common-sense’ disguise and they also became indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor" (Matthew 26:8,9). They were just repeating Judas’ words!
“But when Jesus was aware of this, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it (to prepare Me) for My burial” (Matthew 26:10-12)
“But Jesus said, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.
For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always" (v7,8). It was the opening of the 10th Nisan on Israel’s Calendar (at 6pm) which is when the Passover Lambs were set aside for their death on the 14th Nisan. Thus Mary’s action signified the setting apart of the true Passover Lamb for His death and His anointing for burial. These words of Jesus shows He knows He is heading for certain death but does not flinch, for our eternal salvation was at stake.
Jesus declared the importance of her action by saying: "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her" (Matthew 26:13). Thus, her act was an intrinsic part of the Gospel, for it marked His setting apart for death and burial and the beginning of the Passion week. Moreover, God wanted her story to always be told as part of the Gospel, because it demonstrates what should be the result of our salvation in Christ. If the Gospel of grace does not produce this kind of worship, then the heart is not fully converted to Christ. He proved His love for us by pouring himself out in death, so we should show and prove our love by our worship poured out upon Him lavishly, excessively, wastefully, not held back just like Mary gave her all. God wants us to see her response of faith is the true spirit of worship. We should pour out all we have upon Jesus in love and adoration. Onlookers may think it is wasteful, that we should be more restrained in our worship, but He is worthy. Jesus held her up as an example and rebuked the lukewarm attitude of the disciples. He wants us to be hot - not lukewarm for Him.
“Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus” (v9-11). Lazarus was also a threat to the leaders, as he testified of his resurrection after 4 days, for it was a Messianic miracle, causing many to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
In fact, in v17-19, John gives the recent raising of Lazarus as a major reason for the crowds who went out the greet Him as their King at His Triumphal Entry: “Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him (they went out of the city to meet Him), because they heard that He had done this(Messianic) sign. The Pharisees therefore said (in view of the massive popular response to Jesus that day) among themselves, "You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!"
On the next day, Monday 27th April, Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-19). The preparations are described in Matthew 21:1-7, Mark 11:1-7, Luke 19:29-35.
“The next day, a great multitude that had come to the (Passover) Feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: "Hosanna (‘Save us now’)! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' The King (Messiah) of Israel!" (These were the classic words, from Psalm 118:25,26, to use in welcoming the Messiah as Saviour (‘Hosanna’) and Lord (‘King’). “Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it (Matthew 21:7, Mark 11:7, Luke 19:35) as it is written: "Fear not, daughter of Zion (the Mother Zion is the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal 4:26), the daughter is the earthly Jerusalem. They are connected by Jacob’s Ladder); Behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt (the foal of a donkey)" (v12-15, see also Matthew 21:4,5).
This was His official Presentation of Himself to Israel as their King-Messiah (see Luke 19:44) in deliberate fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9:"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” A conquering King comes on a war-horse, but by coming instead on a donkey He indicated that He came in HUMILITY, offering peace and salvation (Luke 19:42). He was coming to conquer HEARTS and to bring peace with God. Rather than forcing Himself on Israel as their King, He couragously pressed His claims upon them to accept or reject Him, knowing it would lead to His death, because the leaders were infuriated against Him. He was coming not as the conquering LION, but as the sacrificial LAMB. Jesus now comes to us in humilty, He does not force us to receive Him, but presses His claims upon us causing us to choose to accept or reject Him. In time He will come as the Lion-King.
“His disciples did not understand these things at first (the way He was fulfilling prophecy); but when Jesus was glorified (resurrected),then they remembered that these things were written about Him (in Old-Testament prophecy) and that they had done these things to Him (fulfilled in His life)” (v16).
His approach to Jerusalem is described in Matthew 21:8-9: “A very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest!" (also Mark 11:8-10; Luke 19:36-38). Their shouts of praise declared Him to be the Messiah. Instead of receiving Him, the leaders of Israel rejected Him and discouraged the praise (Luke 19:39,40) as well as later in the Temple (Matt 21:14-16) and they became more determined to kill Him (Mark 11:18, Luke 19:47).
Are you like those who WELCOME HIM with PRAISE or those others who reject Him, and discourage others believing in Him? The result of rejecting Christ is destruction, because He is our only salvation and peace. Jesus warned Israel of this in Luke 19:41-44. He wept over them, and said that this was ‘their day’ of opportunity when they could have entered into peace by receiving Him, it was ‘the time of visitation’ from their Messiah, but their eyes were covered by a veil of unbelief and did not recognise it. As a result the city would be destroyed by an invasion (this prophecy was fulfilled by the Romans 37 years later). They invited destruction by rejecting Christ as do people today. It may not fall at once, but delay is not denial. For a Christ-rejector, judgement is certain.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem He headed for the Temple to cleanse it (Matthew 21:10-16, Mark 11:11, Luke 19:45,46). Many in the crowd misunderstood the salvation He had come to bring expecting Him to attack the Romans in their Antonia Fortress, but were disappointed when He showed that His plan was instead to first cleanse (save) His people from sin. He had to first die as the LAMB, before ruling as the Lion. Thus even in rejecting Him they were fulfilling God’s plan for it was 10/1 on Israel’s Calendar (4 days before Passover, the very day the Jews chose and set aside the lambs for sacrifice). They were then kept for 4 days during which time they were tested to make sure they were without blemish and thus fit to fulfil their vital role. We will see Jesus being tested over these days in every way and proving His perfection. Thus He presented Himself as their King and they chose to sacrifice Him, not knowing He was the Lamb of God dying for our sins.
This was all prophesied: “Save now (HOSANNA), I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! (they welcomed Him with these words). We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord (the Temple, fulfilled - Matt 21:15).God is the Lord who has shown us light (Jesus is the Lord God, the Light of the world), bind the sacrifice (the Lamb of God) with cords unto the horns of the altar (but 4 days later they chose to sacrifice Him!)” (Psalm 118:25-27).
As the LAMB He proved Himself worthy to rule as the LION of Judah. Soon, He will come again in response to Israel’s welcome using the same words (Matthew 23:39- but this time spoken in genuine faith) to establish His Kingdom over all (Revelation 5:5-12).
Finally, consider the donkey as a picture of a believer (Job 11:12 compares a man to an ass)! First he was brought to Jesus who ‘had need of him’(Matthew 21:1-3). We must bring people to Jesus. He was young and untrained, not having been ridden before, but Jesus had need of him. In Christ’s holy presence he bowed and received Jesus submitting to His Lord-ship (so that Jesus sat upon the throne of his life) rather than fighting to be free of Him. Thus he received an honoured ministry. The Lord has need of us! He was the throne of the King. He lifted Him up for all to see, praise and welcome into their lives as Saviour and King.
Will you let Jesus be lifted up and enthroned for all to see? You may be an simple ass, but you can be used of God to lift up Jesus and carry His Presence from place to place. Don’t be deceived into thinking all the praise is for you! We bring Jesus to people in peace and humility, not forcing Him on them but presenting Him as the Lamb of God and King of Peace (Saviour and Lord), for them to accept (praise) Him or reject (crucify) Him.