Get Ready Get Set

Heritage Presbyterian Church

April 5, 2020
Palm Sunday
Scripture readings – John 12: 1-19

Lent is a church season of preparation…we are getting ready for Easter and all the triumph and promise and dreams that follow that magnificent, incredible event.  Lent’s 40 days gives us ample time to ponder all the scenes that exist in the Scriptures, in all four Gospels accounts, and even in our own hearts and minds.

Lent is a season of preparation.  And we think we know what we are getting ready for:  Easter, of course!  

But that specific event, as important as it is, cannot hide within its wonder other preparations that Jesus made and implemented beginning on what we call today Palm Sunday.

All four Gospels tell the identical story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  We should really pay attention when all four Gospels agree specifically on anything, and they absolutely do on the Holy Week accounts.  So, let’s examine the reading for today and identify what else Jesus was preparing us to do.

First of all, notice that prior to entering Jerusalem, Jesus first spent at least one evening in nearby Bethany.  Martha and Mary were hard at work making sure that banquet was one that no one would ever forget.  It was done to honor Jesus and to celebrate the recovery (and resuscitation) of Lazarus. But Jesus used this occasion to do things that prepared his followers.

While Martha prepared and served the banquet meal, Mary was anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive nard.  The Apostles, especially Judas, objected to this because of the “waste” of this expensive product that could have been sold for a lot of money and then given to the poor.  Jesus defended Mary’s actions and told the Apostles to leave her alone.  “You will always have the poor, but you will not always have me,” he said.  Did anyone pay attention to the specific words Jesus said, or were they all too freaked out by Mary’s actions of washing Jesus’ feet, drying them with her hair, and then anointing them with nard?

Jesus was preparing his followers to do without his presence on earth.  

Now, in a wonderful sense, Jesus would always be with them, just as he is always with us.  We all know that!  

But as an earthly human presence, Jesus’ time was ending very soon, and Jesus’ followers needed to prepare for it.  

Then we have the overreaction of the Apostles to the so-called waste of the valuable nard – an overreaction led by Judas.  We can all focus on Judas’ reaction because we know where that part of the story is heading, but there may be more to it.  Judas’ reaction to the use of the valuable perfume on Jesus’ feet revealed an act of self-devotion; yet the other Apostles reacted in a similar fashion to the same act, but they get a pass – I guess because they aren’t Judas, and we have no reason to expect they suffered from the loss of great income.  But they also reacted out of self-devotion; they were probably troubled and offended by Mary’s act of washing and anointing Jesus feet – without ever realizing her act of devotion!

Jesus was preparing us to recognize the self-less acts of devotion on the part of his true disciples.

Next was the symbolism.  Scripture tells us that after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, “the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12: 3b)   That fragrant nard would easily cover up any bad smell…like the stench of a dead body…it was a powerful perfume.  

Who had just died?  Lazarus, who was now present at the banquet.

Who was afraid of the stench of death when Jesus told the crowd to open up the tomb where Lazarus’ body lay?  Mary, Lazarus’ sister, who was now anointing Jesus’ feet with nard.

And who would be in the tomb himself within a few days?


The anointing of Jesus with nard by his friend, Mary, was preparing everyone for the death and burial of Jesus.

Now we get to the part of the story in which Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem – the heart of the theme that we celebrate and remember as Palm Sunday.  This is when Jesus “went public” with his ministry.

Remember that up to this point, Jesus had almost “veiled” his ministry and kept most of it quiet.  Recall when Jesus confronted the demon-possessed man who screamed at him, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?!”  

What did Jesus do?  He told the demon to be silent. (Luke 4:35)

Recall when Jesus and the three Apostles came down the mountain after those Apostles witnessed his transfiguration and appearance with Moses and Elijah; what did Jesus tell those witnessing Apostles?

“Tell no one what you saw until after I have risen from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

And what happened the first time Jesus tried to tell his Apostles exactly what was going to happen him?  Remember when Peter took Jesus aside and told him sternly to stop talking about his death? 

Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  (Mark 8:33)

Jesus had kept a low profile during much of his ministry.  His teachings and healings were well known, but previous prophets had done similar things.  Jesus was now confirming that he was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah, and the one promised by God.   

Jesus was preparing his followers for a fully public ministry with no doubt whatsoever about his identity.

Finally, we reach the climax of today’s Scripture reading – the entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  We can all imagine that scene:  Jesus calmly riding on a donkey’s colt while the Apostles run ahead and practically dance with joy.  The crowd shouts “Hosanna!” and waves palm branches and even spread their coats and cloaks on the ground in his path.  He leads the parade to the Temple…and all along the way, the religious authorities, the followers of King Herod, and the Roman officials and soldiers kept a careful, uneasy watch on what was happened.  

They were right to feel uneasy…Jesus was preparing the powers of this world, the evil and the unbending keepers of the status quo, to be confronted with the righteous power of the Living God.

The crowd was almost in a joyful frenzy.  They thought they were going to get a military Messiah who would drive out the hated Romans, get rid of the corrupt King Herod and his band of clowns, and restore the true Kingdom of God on earth with Israel as its center.

And the crowd was dead wrong.

If Jesus was the military King David they had hoped for, he disappointed them by not riding in on a warhorse and leading an armed legion of holy warriors.  Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophet Zechariah’s words that foretold exactly how he would enter: “…riding on a donkey’s colt.”  (Zechariah 9:9)

In doing this, Jesus was preparing everyone – including believers today – for the appearance of the true Messiah.  

This would be a sacrificial lamb atoning once and for all for the stain of human sin.  

This was the most innocent who would suffer and die a public criminal’s death in just six short days.

This was the Son of God who would rise from the dead three days later – not as Lazarus had done, to die again someday, but rather to live forever with the Father in Heaven.

The disciples and the people of Jesus’ day revealed themselves to be small, simple, fearful, impulsive, seeking their own selfish glory with Jesus.

Instead, Jesus prepared us all to be our “new selves” who would still have Jesus with us always in a new way – but who would also live and serve Him in brand new ways.

This is what Jesus was preparing everyone for.

So get ready…the Holiest of Weeks is beginning today.

Get set…Jesus has told us everything and now it is up to us to choose to serve Him in all the ways we can imagine.

Now GO, Christians!  Go and make a difference in the world.