- Shusako Endo
READING: John 12.1-19 (CEB)
Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, “This perfume was worth a year’s wages! Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” ( He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.) Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.” Many Jews learned that he was there. They came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. The chief priests decided that they would kill Lazarus too. It was because of Lazarus that many of the Jews had deserted them and come to believe in Jesus. The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, Don’t be afraid, Daughter Zion. Look! Your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt. His disciples didn’t understand these things at first. After he was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. The crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were testifying about him. That’s why the crowd came to meet him, because they had heard about this miraculous sign that he had done. Therefore, the Pharisees said to each other, “See! You’ve accomplished nothing! Look! The whole world is following him!”
We who are called to proclaim God’s Good News week after week, year after year, too often pride ourselves on our ability to deliver the right word on each and every occasion. In rare moments of humility and candor, however, those with mettle readily admit the inability to express in words the heart of the Easter experience. At this high holy time, we tend to step aside and let the story tell itself, while we simply give ourselves to its passion and its promise. This Easter will be no exception. Thus, in lieu of offering my take on the Easter story, I offer a prayer for Palm Sunday and the week that follows. May it bring you to Life, Light, and Joy!
God of all times and journeys; it’s been a long stretch on lonely, dusty roads – this pilgrimage we call Lent - but we’ve finally made it. Jerusalem! The Holy City! The gates have been thrown open wide, and we have witnessed the king of glory enter to the clamor of the crowds and shouts of alleluia! Hope has surely arrived! To be sure, we don’t understand this ‘donkey’ thing. Why not the royal steed our king so richly deserves? And we choose to overlook the reference to a prince of peace wielding no sword; that surely is an oversight. Or is it? Even as we revel in victory, storm clouds appear on the horizon; an omen of dark things to come. God, we are conflicted and confused about how this week will unfold: will it bring light or darkness? Victory or defeat? Life or death?
It’s been a long stretch on lonely, dusty roads – this pilgrimage we call Lent – yet it pales in comparison to the journey from Palm to Passion; from Triumphal Entry to Empty Tomb. Nevertheless, we must stay the course, because “The only road to Easter morning is through the unrelenting shadows of that Friday, only then will the alleluias be sung; only then will the dancing begin.” (Ann Weems, from Holy Week)
God, we will hold on to the excitement of this glorious day – Palm Sunday – and pray that you will hold us close through this Holy Week, illumine our path, and reveal to us at its end the mystery that lies beyond the reach of darkness and death; the resurrection to Life and Light. Amen.