Saturday - Six days. For most, it began like any other Saturday, but this was not any other Saturday. The Passover was a week away, preparations were underway. But on this Saturday, there was a stranger rumor going around, a rumor that the man known as Jesus, had arrived outside of Jerusalem.
In six days He was going to die, but He had much to accomplish before then. Jesus arrived in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, where He would remain for His safety. While in Bethany, Jesus visited with old friends: Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead; Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha; and attended dinner at the house of Simon the Leper, likely another man whom He had healed. With a title like Simon the Leper, he was probably still not entirely welcomed in society, even after being healed.
At the dinner, the sisters showed their different ways of serving, with Martha serving the meal and Mary using an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus, an action which angered some of those present. The Gospel of John records that Judas, the betrayer, was the one who spoke up to question the action. Should not such an expensive bottle of perfume be sold and the money given to the poor instead of wasted? Judas, a man always thinking of money, was probably thinking of the customary tradition to give gifts to the poor on the eve of Passover.
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.
The Gospel of John is quite harsh towards Judas. The author shows Judas’ concern for the poor as false, instead Judas loved money and did not want to see it wasted. Judas did not understand the significance of Mary’s actions. The Gospel of Mark attributes this incident as the spark which caused Judas to be willing to betray Jesus Christ.
The countdown had begun. Not many people know the day they are going to die, nor the hour, nor the method. He did. He knew the day He was going to die. He knew the hour He was going die. He knew the method with which He was to die. He knew the pain He would experience. He knew the suffering He would endure. The worst was not going to be the severe physical pain, but the excruciating spiritual pain of being separated from His Father. He endured it willingly; a Lamb led to the slaughter. He was going to die: for you.
Sunday - Five Days. That strange rumor going around yesterday - well, its true! This man, Jesus, entered Jerusalem today and what an event! He entered like royalty! The crowds were packed in to see Him. They were waving palm leafs, cheering for Him, and spreading their cloaks for Him! What a sight! What an event!
Imagine: You are from a distant city. You had heard rumors of a Man, Jesus, who could heal the sick and drive out demons. As you traveled closer to Jerusalem, you started hearing about the wondrous teachings of this Man. This Man, who defies the Pharisees and religious leaders. This Man, who speaks of love and serving others. Maybe you would get a chance to hear this Man for yourself! Surely such a great teacher would come to Jerusalem for Passover as well!
Jesus entered as a king. He was riding on a donkey (as foretold in Zechariah 9:9). People were placing their cloaks on the road before Him, an act typically reserved for kings. People were waving palm leafs and shouting "Hosanna!" which means "save now." Jesus would save them, but not in the way they imagined. After He entered the city, Jesus went up to the temple and observed all that was occurring. He saw the exorbitant prices people were charged for animals for sacrifice. He saw the people being charged to exchange their money for temple coin in order to pay the Passover tax. He saw people passing through the outer court, using it as a shortcut through the city. He saw the temple being defiled. And then He left and returned to Bethany for the night.
What? He left?! Yes, Jesus did not act rashly or impulsively. He observed and left. There is no doubt He was upset at what He saw. His Father's house was being treated with disrespect! That night He prayed, prayed for wisdom, guidance, and direction as to the proper action to take. It is an example we all should follow.
Oh, what a difference five days would make! Jesus was welcomed with open arms and glad heart. The city was packed with crowds larger than normal, as they had come to celebrate Passover. Word of Him had spread and most were glad to welcome Him. Of course in five days, the crowds would gather again. They would again cheer for Him, only this time, it would be for His death. He knew all this. Was He able to enjoy the moment? The welcome the Son of God should have had? Or did it cast a shadow over the celebration?
Monday - Four days. Wow! Who knew this week leading up to the Passover would be so eventful! Today at the Temple was unlike anything seen before. That strange man, Jesus, He upset the entire dynamic in the Temple today!
On His way into Jerusalem that morning, Jesus cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit. At that time of year, fig trees were full of leaves, but did not yet produce fruit. So why curse the tree? Jesus used 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. 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 had observed these actions the previous day, sprang into action. He upended tables and benches. Money was scattered everywhere. Sheep were bleating, birds were cooing, attempting to get away. 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!
Mark records Jesus saying "Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'" (emphasis added, Mark 11:17, NIV; Isaiah 56:7). This seems to be 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 many leading Jews looked down upon, 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.
Jesus may have entered Jerusalem as a King, but that feeling among the people would not last. Before He is betrayed, there were lessons the disciples needed to learn and lessons the people needed to learn. The time was coming when all would be able to worship the Lord as equals, yet that time had not yet come. Until then, the Gentiles still need a place to worship.
Tuesday - Three days. Some people entering Jerusalem today commented on an oddly withered fig tree. Was this Jesus fellow responsible? His teachings today in the Temple! Most present had never heard such clarity in teachings. Jesus spoke in ways that related to them, ways that they could easily understand!
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 physical parable. The fig tree, which stood for Israel, had rapidly withered and been destroyed, just as Israel would be destroyed in approximately 40 years time. 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.
Jesus and his disciples arrived in the city and went 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 answer His question, nor would they be willing to acknowledge from where His authority came.
Jesus continues to teach, telling several parables. Parables are stories with a lesson attached to them. 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.
The time of Jesus’ death is rapidly approaching, yet He is not finished teaching. He must prepare the disciples must be prepared to carry on after His death. The people need to be told the truth, even if they do not yet understand. Until the end, He will continue to teach all who are willing to listen.
Wednesday - Two days. Compared to the previous days, today was rather quiet. No disturbances at the Temple, no disputes between Jesus and the religious leaders. In fact, Jesus was no where to be seen inside the city today! Several of His followers were spotted though, perhaps making arrangements for their group to celebrate the Passover.
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. 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 prayer, likely echoing the prayers later recorded in the Garden of Gethsemane; strength for Him for what was to come and strength for the disciples.
While Jesus was praying, some of his disciples had entered Jerusalem and were making preparations to celebrate the Passover. Jesus and the disciples would celebrate Passover in Jerusalem in the house of a friend.
But not all were praying with Jesus and/or preparing for Passover, for Judas was preparing in his own way. It is on this day that Judas made the final arrangements to betray Jesus Christ, and received his 30 pieces of silver.
There are times when we could all benefit from a quiet day. A day spent in prayer and reflection. A day spent preparing. We never know what is to come in our lives, put we must always be prepared.
*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.
The time has nearly arrived, but this day was the calm before the storm. Jesus knew what was coming and was preparing His disciples. They did not know the full truth of what is to come - they would not understand if they were told - yet they must be prepared. His time is coming to end, their time is just beginning. Before the end, they will have one last celebration together: Passover, during which a new tradition will be born.