Saturday - Six days
It is rare, knowing the day, the hour, the minute, and the method of your death. It is rarer still, to know all the details surrounding your death, to know why you will die, the pain you will experience, who will be by your side, who will be cheering your death, and who will be mourning. If you knew, how would you spend your final week?
Jesus knew all those details, and more! It was a burden knowing, especially as the time grew closer, as evident by His prayers. He knew he would die in one week. What did He do?
Six days before his death, Jesus arrived in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, and visited with His long-time friends - Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead; Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ quarrelsome sisters who differed on their opinion of how to serve; Simon the Leper, a man who though healed by Jesus, was probably still not very welcomed in society.
During dinner that night at the home of Simon the Leper, Martha prepared and served the meal. It was her way of serving. Mary, meanwhile, chose another method. She used a very expensive perfume to wash the feet of Jesus. Several of those present objected to her use of the perfume that was worth about a year’s wages. Surely such an item should be sold and the money given to the poor! According to the Gospel of John, Judas, the betrayer, was the one who questioned the action. Was Judas truly thinking of the poor? Was he considering the tradition of giving gifts to the poor on the eve of Passover? According to the Gospel of Mark, it was this rebuke which was the spark that led to Judas being willing to betray the Son of God.
Jesus rebuked all of those who questioned the waste. Was it really a waste? Is honoring the Lord ever a waste? The Son of God was on earth for a limited time, a limited time that was rapidly approaching its end. There will always be poor in the world who can be helped, but a chance to honor the Lord in such a manner will not always exist. Additionally, it was a symbolic foretelling of His coming death. Mary anointing Jesus with perfume was a preparation for His burial.
Jesus only had six days left. He chose to spend time with friends and allow them to comfort and honor Him, each in their own way.
Palm Sunday - Five Days
Every year, Hollywood celebrities gather together to honor themselves at various awards shows. As they enter, they are surrounded by crowds and fans all screaming their names. At the royal wedding in 2011, crowds gathered along the street, cheering for the newlyweds and hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal family. Crowds gathering to see someone they have heard about is nothing new. With just five days until His death, Jesus also drew a crowd.
According to the Gospel of John, the crowd gathering that day for Jesus was there when He raised Lazarus from the dead. They remembered His healing. Some had only heard the story of what He did and wanted to see the man for themselves.
Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king, riding on a donkey (as foretold in Zechariah 9:9).
As a gesture of respect, one typically only reserved for crowned kings, people in crowd laid down their cloaks before Him. The crowd was waving palm leafs and shouting “Hosanna!” which means “save now.” For that is exactly what Jesus had come to do, grant salvation to all, but not in the way they imagined.
After Jesus experienced His kingly welcome into the city, He went up to the temple and was not pleased with what He saw occurring at the holy place of worship. It was not being used as a place of worship, but as a market place. People were using the outer court of the temple as a shortcut through the city. Those who had come to worship were being required to exchange their hard-earned money for temple coin in order to pay the Passover tax. Those wishing to purchase an animal for sacrifice where being charged an exorbitant amount. Those who purchased animals outside the temple ran a high risk of the animals being rejected by the priests.
Jesus entered the city as king, observed the temple being defiled, and then left. There can be no doubt that He was upset at what He saw, but He did not act rashly or impulsively. Instead, He first sought the counsel of His Father, for it was His Father’s house that was being disrespected. That evening after leaving the temple, Jesus spent time in prayer. He sought wisdom and guidance as to the proper action to take in temple.
Jesus only had five days left, yet He still remained calm and sought His Father’s guidance before acting.
Monday - Four days
After leaving the city and spending the night in Bethany, Jesus returned to Jerusalem the day after His royal entrance into the city. As Jesus walked towards Jerusalem, He passed a fig tree, which was not yet producing fruit. During this time of year, fig trees are full of leaves, but do not produce fruit. Jesus cursed the tree, using it as a visual parable for His disciples. The tree represented Israel. Outwardly, Israel looked healthy, like the tree with lots of leaves. Also like the tree, Israel lacked fruit. Rituals and traditions had taken the place of heartfelt worship.
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus again went to the temple. It was bustling with activity, as it had been the day before. People coming from out of town needed to buy animals for sacrifice. They could buy the animals outside of the temple walls for a lesser cost, but they risked the animal being rejected by the priests. Buying inside the temple, at a much higher cost, was safer.
At Passover, the Temple required the people to pay a tax. It could not, however, be paid in the coin of the day, rather it had to be paid in temple gold. For a price, money could be changed into temple gold.
The temple occupied a large portion of the city, and the outer court was being used as a shortcut through the city by many. Going around the temple walls took much longer than going through the temple. The outer court of temple, which was to be used as worship by the Gentiles, had become a bazaar.
Jesus, who having observed these actions the previous day and sought guidance overnight, sprang into action. He upended tables and benches, sending money scattering in every direction. Sheep started bleating, birds began cooing, and all animals sought to escape the sudden chaos. Jesus, with a whip made out of cords, drove the animals and their sellers from the temple courtyard. No more would the temple courtyard be used as a thoroughfare! No more would the temple courtyard be a marketplace!
Mark records Jesus saying, “Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’"(underline added, Mark 11:17, NIV). This seems to be Jesus foreshadowing the day when all will be able to enter the temple and worship, even the Gentiles. Until then, by clearing the temple, He has not only restored His Father's house to one of respect, but also ensured that the Gentiles, who were looked down upon by many leading Jews, would have a quiet place to worship the Lord. Once again, Jesus demonstrated that He came not only for the Jews, but for all mankind.
After cleansing the temple courtyard, Jesus remained in the temple, healing those who came to Him and verbally sparring with the pharisees and those who sought to eradicate Him and His teachings.
Jesus knew He did not have much time, yet He still looked after all of His flock. He took time to fix what was wrong and help those who needed help. Until the end, Jesus never ceased in helping others.
Tuesday - Three days
Once again, Jesus had left the city the previous night. The next morning, Jesus and His disciples returned to the city and the temple. On the way to the temple, the disciples noticed that the fig tree Jesus had cursed the previous day had already withered. They were surprised that it had happened so quickly. The fig tree was again serving as a visual parable. The fig tree, which stood for Israel, had rapidly withered and been destroyed, just as Israel would soon be destroyed. Today we know that approximately 40 years after Jesus caused the fig tree to wither and die, in AD 70, future Roman emperor Titus, along with his second-in-command Tiberius Julius Alexander seized and conquered Jerusalem, the holy city of Israel, and destroyed the temple of the Lord.
After arriving in the city, Jesus and His disciples once again returned to the temple, where Jesus began to preach. His actions caused religious leaders to question by whose authority did He do such things? Jesus agreed to answer their question, but only if they first answered His. Jesus knew that they would not, could not answer His question, because they were unwilling to acknowledge from where Jesus received His authority.
Jesus teaches using several parables. Parables are easy to remember stories that are associated with a specific lesson. Jesus was teaching to people who were, mostly, unable to read or write. Very little was recorded outside of government. By teaching in this way, people were more likely to remember the lesson. It also got people talking and thinking! Jesus did not expressly tell the crowds the meaning of the parable; it was for them to figure out! The parables were built on common and well-known activities which would resonate with the listener. Jesus was preaching to the common person and did so in a way that would be entertaining, familiar, and easily remembered so that they could be shared with others.
The parables were also used to avoid getting into trouble with the Sandhedrin, the executive, legislative, and judicial branch of the Jewish government. Frequently in His parables, Jesus would not portray the religious leaders of the day in the best light. He called them out on their false actions and refusal to accept God's blessing and His Son. Jesus' teaching infuriated the Pharisees because Jesus was upsetting the status quo. Jesus had also managed to avoid being trapped by their various questions, making them look unwise.
This day was no different. In a debate over whose son is the Christ, Jesus was able to silence the Pharisees, for they could not say anything else, without acknowledging the truth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not finished though. He continued to teach to any who would listen, before returning to Bethany for the night.
Wednesday - Two days
When parents send their children off on their own, there is always a list of reminders - what to do what not to do. They try to remind them in the days before they leave, yet, it never fails, that as the child is walking away, the parent is shouting after them wisdom that they had forgotten to say earlier. With only two days left, was this the way Jesus was feeling while preparing the disciples?
This day was a day of preparation, although little is recorded of it in the Gospels. On this day, Jesus prepared for what was to come through prayers that were likely similar to the prayers later recorded in the Garden of Gethsemane; strength for Him for what was to come and strength for the disciples. Was the magnitude of what He had to do beginning to weigh on Him?
While Jesus was praying, some of his disciples had entered Jerusalem and were making preparations to celebrate the Passover, as per Jesus’ instructions. Jesus and the disciples would celebrate Passover in Jerusalem in the house of a friend.
One of the disciples, however, was off preparing by himself, preparing his future. Judas was meeting with the Pharisees and agreeing to betray his friend, Jesus Christ. Judas was given 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal.
Jesus knew His death was just two days away. He also knew that He needed strength and fortitude that could only come through prayer in order to face what lay ahead.
*The Gospels are not clear if these events happened one day before Passover or early on the day of Passover. The exact days are unimportant in the overall view and meaning of events.