Taking Back Sunday
The Sunday before the first Easter Sunday could have been the night that Simon held a dinner in Jesus’ honor in Bethany. John 12:1 says: “Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” The day of the week for this gets a little confusing since six days before Passover is either Friday or Saturday evening, two unlikely dates for a supper. What we do know is that Lazarus was there reclining at the table (after he had been resurrected from the dead!), and Martha was serving. This was the dinner where Mary, their sister, poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. We don’t know it was Sunday for sure, but we do know that the Sunday before Easter Sunday everyone but Jesus had high hopes of the future and pretty much thought they knew what God was going to do in their new leader.
It was the calm before the storm. It was a day that made sense. They got up and went about the business they had been doing for the past three years. Miracles were ordinary for them. It seemed normal to be eating with a man who was once dead for four days. They never knew when or where to expect a miracle, yet they felt certain miracles would continue wherever Jesus was.
That Sunday was just an ordinary day in the life of Jesus and His disciples—the Triumphant entry aside. It was, after all, what they expected to happen. Jesus was the Messiah and they thought He would soon reign like David over an earthly throne from Jerusalem. Sunday was the day after the Sabbath, the day to get back to work and on with the challenges of the week ahead. The theological debates were laid aside for the practical realities of how to get enough food to eat for the next week. Dinners needed to be cooked and eaten, laundry needed to be folded, business needed to be conducted and polite interchanges were to be made. No one would have thought that one week from this day the whole world would be turned upside down. No one could understand that something more powerful that 1,000 atom bombs was about to explode the spiritual realities with which we all live with.
Who knows what was going through Mary’s mind? I think of her as one of those very sensitive women who are quick to obey the promptings of the Spirit of God without having to understand the why in order to obey. She heard about the dinner and knew she could attend and wouldn’t miss another chance to be with Jesus. As she left for the dinner, she followed her heart to pick up that perfume of pure nard worth a year’s wages. Did she have in mind what she would end up doing at the dinner when she left? I’m not sure. Maybe she was bringing it so the disciples could use it to anoint others for spiritual purposes. Maybe she wanted to give the jar to Jesus, but didn’t consider pouring its entire contents on Him. That doesn’t even make sense. The disciples objected to her apparent waste of money. Mary’s character doesn’t seem impractical, except that when it comes to spiritual matters, like the earlier dinner at her sister’s Martha’s home, she knew when the dishes could wait.
Jesus Himself defended her actions and proclaimed that what she did should be remembered always, explaining that she was anointing Him for burial. Her story is contained in all four gospels (John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:37-39).
As we enter into Holy Week, may we be sensitive to the promptings of God’s Spirit in our souls and not miss out on once in a lifetime opportunities to follow the Spirit’s leadings to spiritual blessings.
to Dr. Newman's article