Mary and the Spikenard
Six days before the final Passover feast, Jesus arrived in Bethany. A supper was prepared for Him at the house of Simon the leper and everyone came. Martha was serving as usual and Lazarus was sitting with Jesus at the table. People turned up not only to see Jesus but Lazarus as well. He was quite a figure now he had been raised from the dead and he used this to preach about Jesus. (The Pharisees were quite annoyed about it and were plotting together to execute him as well as Jesus if they could.)
Mary came in and quietly approached Jesus. She was carrying a slim alabaster flask containing perfume such as Jewish women often carried at that time, except that this one was quite big and was still sealed. It contained spikenard, very expensive, made from crushed spikenard root.
She snapped the head off the flask. Then she poured its contents gently and carefully on Jesus’ feet. The costly smell of spikenard filled the house. The flask contained about a pound weight of it (around 500g) and Mary used the lot. Kneeling in front of Jesus, she washed His feet in the ointment and wiped them with her hair.
Judas Iscariot was cross. “What a waste!” he groused. “That lot could have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor.” He said this, not because he cared one jot for the poor but because he was the treasurer for the group and helped himself to it as he chose. (The pence were denarii, Roman pennies, or old English pennies – 12 to the shilling and 240 to the pound sterling. Three hundred represented a year’s wages at that time.)
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “She has done this because she understands I am about to be buried. You have always got the poor around. You won’t always have Me.” Then He turned to Mary in recognition of the great love she had shown Him in her extravagant gift. “What this woman has done,” He announced, addressing all present, “will be spoken of as long as my message is preached and it will be a lasting memorial of her.”
But Judas left, grumbling as he went.
Triumphal entry into Jerusalem
It was time to enter Jerusalem. Jesus sent two of His disciples to fetch a certain young donkey which had never carried a rider before. He told them where to find it and what to say if they were challenged.
Off went the disciples and found the colt exactly where Jesus had said it would be at the junction of two roads. They were just untying it when there was a shout.
“Oi, what do you think you’re doing?”
“The Lord needs him,” the disciples said quickly, just as Jesus had told them to.
“Oh, okay then.” The folk stood back and let the disciples lead the colt away.
Back with Jesus, the disciples spread coats on the donkey’s back and Jesus sat on it.
And so He rode into Jerusalem.
They were still on the hill leading down from the mount of Olives, when the disciples and all those who followed Jesus began to praise aloud, “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord” and “Hosanna in the highest”.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus to tell them to be quiet but Jesus told them that if they did not shout, the stones in the walls would instead. And so the triumphal procession came into the gate of Jerusalem itself.
The people, who saw the prophecy of Zechariah they all knew so well, being fulfilled in front of their eyes, went wild with joy and excitement. Zechariah had said, “Behold, your King comes to you sitting on a donkey.”
They tore their coats from their backs, ripped branches from the palm trees, and laid them down so He could ride over them. They sang and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”
The crowd grew bigger and bigger as the news spread throughout Jerusalem and people came running to see their King.
Image: Jean-Léon Gérôme.