We are now in the final stretch, Sunday of Jesus' entrance in Jerusalem, or as it is also called the Palm Sunday, was perhaps the high point of His popularity. Jesus had just resurrected Lazarus, He was entering Jerusalem on a donkey, not hiding from fame, as He did up to this moment. People assumed their liberator had finally arrived. And He did, but they were waiting for a political liberator - to overthrow the hated Roman army. This triumphant entrance will eventually lead to betrayal, horrible suffering, and even worse death.
SIX days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for Him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with Him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus' disciples (the one who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii* and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of My burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival [of Passover] heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord - the King of Israel!” (Psalm 118:26). Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (Isaiah 40:9, Zechariah 9:9).
Jesus' disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of Him and had been done to Him. So the crowd that had been with Him began to testify that He had called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. It was also because they heard that Jesus had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet Him.
* Three hundred denarii would be nearly a year’s wages for a laborer.
Let's look at the reading part by part.
"Six days before the Passover," meaning on Saturday, right after raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was invited to Lazarus' house to celebrate this event. It wasn't the first time that Jesus had resurrected someone, but no one was as dead as Lazarus was. By the time the Lord arrived to Lazarus' tomb, he was already dead four days, and his body began to decompose. In short, he couldn't be more dead. This resurrection was one of the last proofs for the people that He was more than just a great Teacher, that Jesus is, in fact, Who He claims to be - the Son of God, and God Himself.
At the banquet, Lazarus' sister anointed Christ's feet with extremely expensive oil. Evangelist John specifies that it cost 300 denarii. One denarius was a day's wage for a regular worker. So you can imagine Judas' shock at this "waste." As Saint John also specifies, Judas was indignant, not so much because the money spent on the oil could go to the poor, but because he was a thief. So basically, he was greedy and angry that he didn't get to pocket some of that money.
In response to Judas, Jesus says something that did not, at first, make sense to His listeners, "She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of My burial." Usually, once a person died, then people would anoint the body for the burial, but Mary anointed the Lord now, five days before His death. What Jesus was trying to tell them is that He is about to die. Again, something that did not register with them at the moment (and how could it?).
"The next day," meaning on Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly. The crowd met Him with joy, shouting out Scripture, which meant that they recognized in His person the promised Messiah. But here is the question, how could the crowd that cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!" in less than five days cry out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! ... His blood is on us and on our children!" (Luke 23:21, Matthew 27:25)?
Israelites were oppressed, they were occupied by an enemy, they remembered God's promise of the Messiah. However, by this time, they had a very distorted idea of Who this Messiah will be. They expected a military revolutionist, who will come and overthrow the enemy, and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. It is possible that people didn't pay attention upon which animal Jesus was entering Jerusalem. The choice of a donkey was very intentional. Had Jesus been sitting on a horse (a war animal), the crowd would have been justified to think that political liberator finally appeared. But Jesus was sitting on a donkey, a humble and quiet animal, to signal that He was coming in complete humility, not in earthly victory.
One final note, Saint John says that "Jesus' disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of Him and had been done to Him." What he is talking about here are all the different prophecies, and some of the things that Jesus had told His disciples in preparation for His death and resurrection. The disciples only understood everything after the fact, in retrospect. As a famous philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once said, "Life can only be understood backwards." Meaning, we don't, and we can't, understand the things that are happening to us today, we can only understand everything looking back.
Yours in Christ,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest